Just prior to the four-year anniversary of the BP oil spill, BP and the Coast Guard issued press releases. BP announced the “active cleanup” in Louisiana is over, while the Coast Guard stated the clean up response is far from over. “We are absolutely committed to continuing the clean-up of Deepwater Horizon oil along the Gulf - for as long as it takes,” Coast Guard Capt. Thomas Sparks wrote.
The Washington Post reported on the “dueling press releases.” But Geoff Morrell, BP Senior Vice President for US Communications & External Affairs, told DeSmogBlog,
“We have never suggested the work of the U.S. Coast Guard or BP is over. Our announcement Tuesday merely highlighted the end of active clean up of the Gulf shoreline. We believe that is a very significant achievement that resulted from four years of sustained work with the USCG. However, that accomplishment has not in any way diminished our commitment to the Gulf. To the contrary, we will continue to work with the USCG, primarily in responding to reports of any residual Macondo oil and taking action where removal is required.”
BP's claim that it would “make things right” still echoes from its advertising campaign. But scaling back clean-up operations means the burden of oil sighting reports will fall more on the public. The Gulf Restoration Network, a nonprofit environmental group, is dismayed. GRN spokesman Raleigh Hoke told the Washington Post, “It’s clearly premature to end the active cleanup.”
Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Director P. J. Hahn, who continues to monitor the effects of the BP spill, pointed out last year that oil sightings come from fishermen and environmental groups more often than from the Coast Guard or BP.
Hahn has led a crusade to save two barrier islands that were bird rookeries before the spill. For the first two years after the spill, the birds returned, but by 2013 the birds had almost nowhere left to nest and abandoned the islands.
The oil that hit the island killed the roots of marsh grass and mangrove trees that held the islands together, speeding up coastal erosion that was already eating away at the islands.
By now, the islands have all but disappeared. No birds were found on the two islands this year that have all but disappeared. Instead Hahn and reporter Bob Marshall found some birds nesting on another barrier island nearby in a rookery that is not nearly as large as the ones that Hahn still hopes to restore.
How prepared are oil companies and the Coast Guard for spills?
DeSmogBlog put that question to Dr. Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor who has been monitoring the Valdez oil spill. Ott says, “We are less prepared now to respond to an oil spill than we were 25 years ago.”
49 weeks have passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in millions of barrels of oil leaking into the Gulf, and yet the same fatal flaws that doomed that rig are still present in most offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
The reason that BP’s Macondo well managed to leak oil into the Gulf was because the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon rig malfunctioned, meaning that the preventer could not blow up and seal off the well. But the Deepwater Horizon is not the only rig that contained a malfunctioning blowout preventer. According to new reports, blowout preventers on rigs throughout the Gulf have not been properly inspected or maintained, meaning that another rig explosion could result in more oil in the Gulf.
An independent panel of technical experts released its interim report today, finding that BP and its contractors ignored clear warning signs foretelling the disaster at BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. The report, compiled by a scientific committee of the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council, criticized BP for an “insufficient consideration of risk” in light of “several indications of potential hazard.”
Convened at the behest of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the committee was instructed to carry out an independent and science-based investigation into the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion which killed 11 workers on April 20, 2010.
The experts note that BP and the other companies failed to learn from “near misses” in the past, and none of the companies or regulators flagged the flawed decisions that contributed to the well blowout.
While the U.S. government continues to allow offshore oil and gas operations following a brief deepwater drilling moratorium, the facts uncovered in independent analyses of the BP blowout point to a systemic industry problem with carelessness and a disregard for safety. It seems cost-shaving and profit potential are the industry’s key concerns, not the safety of America’s ecologically sensitive coastal environments, and certainly not the safety of workers and affected communities.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.