As the BP oil disaster enters its 77th Day we speak to a scientist leading a team of researchers trying to get access to the well to better study what is happening at the site. Dr. Ira Leifer, who’s on the federally appointed Flow Rate Technical Group, says BP is restricting his access to study the gushing oil well.
AMY GOODMAN: It is day 77 of the BP oil spill and there is still no clear end in sight for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. Up to 130,000,000 gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico with tens of thousands of barrels continuing to gush out of the Deepwater Horizon well every day. On Monday, tar balls were found on a beach in Texas, the first evidence that the spill has reached all the Gulf states, spanning five hundred miles of coastline through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida Panhandle.
Meanwhile, clean-up efforts are far behind where they should be. In the two and half months since the disaster, BP has skimmed or burned just sixty percent of the amount of oil it promised regulators it could remove in a single day. That’s right, The Washington Post reports that in March, just a few weeks before the disaster, BP filed a report saying it had the capacity to skim and remove more than 490,000 barrels of oil each day in the event of a major spill. The report was not questioned by federal officials. As of Monday, skimming operations have averaged less than nine hundred barrels a day and as the disaster continues to worsen, new restrictions are being placed on the media.
The Coast Guard has announced new rules keeping the public, including photographers and reporters covering the spill, from coming within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the water or on beaches. Violators could face a fine of up to $40,000 and felony charges. In order to get within the 65 foot limit, media must get direct permission from the Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans. Well, we’re joined now by a scientist leading a team of researchers trying to get access to the well to better study what is happening at the site.
Congressman Ed Markey wrote a letter to BP last month requesting that the corporation provide safe access to the well site and full financial support, but there’s been no response from BP. Dr. Ira Leifer is the scientist leading the proposed research mission known as "Deep Spill 2." He’s also on the federally appointed Flow Rate Technical Group. He’s a researcher in the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, joining us now on the phone. Dr. Leifer, Welcome to Democracy Now!. Explain what you are requesting and what you are not getting.
DR. IRA LEIFER: Well, Amy, about 10 years ago, almost to the day, there was an experiment in frigid Arctic Norwegian waters to try to learn where the oil would go and because it was a small release, it was artificial. We didn’t learn from that what we need to know now to try to understand where the oil’s going from the Macondo spill. We don’t know, we’re searching in the dark. Deep Spill 2, this experiment that I proposed and created and brought together a team of scientists to research, is trying to understand hypothesis driven science where the oil goes in the water column so that we can actually go and respond to it. And in part it’s for now, to know what it’s effect on the ecosystem is, but a big part of this is for the future and for the next generation, so that in a future oil spill, we actually are not searching blindly for where the oil goes but we have a good idea and we can actually respond to it appropriately.
Gulf oil cleanup
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- Amy Goodman
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This needs to be investigated to find out if the allegations are true.
C.S.’s original goal was to gain access to some of the areas being guarded by BP contractors and deemed “off limits” to reporters, but yesterday he, along with Save Our Shores‘s Judson Parker, made an unexpected discovery.
The above video apparently got the attention of Fox News who featured it in the segment below, and naturally they asked if there was any proof BP was doing the dumping, which there's not. When they're already trucking in sand for those berms and keeping everyone away from the areas covered in oil, I would not expect there to be any evidence unless some employee came forward and said this is what they are doing.
Pair that with this set of videos taken in Pensacola Florida and it raises more questions about what they're doing with this supposed "cleanup". h/t Hechicera
Pensacola Beach June 23rd:
Same beach (same videographer a few days later):
So questions. Are they trucking in sand and just covering up the mess? Are they trying to clean it up and the efforts just aren't doing a bit of good with the tides full of oil coming in and out? No matter what they're doing it doesn't appear to be making any difference. The beaches still have oil on them underneath the sand as the above video clips show. It would be nice if the media would get out there and demand some access to these sites and find out. If they are just dumping sand over the oil it needs to stop immediately.
Dylan Ratigan talks to Super Suck International director Francois Vorster about his company's solution for cleaning up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico before it continues to spread any further to our shorelines than it has already. Thad Allen was asked about this on the Sunday talk shows and dismissed it. It's bad enough that they allowed all the god knows how many gallons of dispersant to be poured into the water to try to hide the size of the disaster, now they're allowing BP to fiddle while our coastlines are destroyed instead of getting this oil out of the water A.S.A.P. Time to quit covering for BP and get this done.
I wrote about this when Mike Papantonio came on Hardball and talked about using these tankers to get the oil out of the water and when a former Shell Oil executive also touted using this technology on State of the Union. Here's more from Esquire's Politics Blog.
There's a potential solution to the Gulf oil spill that neither BP, nor the federal government, nor anyone — save a couple intuitive engineers — seems willing to try. As The Politics Blog reported on Tuesday in an interview with former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, the untapped solution involves using empty supertankers to suck the spill off the surface, treat and discharge the contaminated water, and either salvage or destroy the slick.
Hofmeister had been briefed on the strategy by a Houston-based environmental disaster expert named Nick Pozzi, who has used the same solution on several large spills during almost two decades of experience in the Middle East — who says that it could be deployed easily and should be, immediately, to protect the Gulf Coast. That it hasn't even been considered yet is, Pozzi thinks, owing to cost considerations, or because there's no clear chain of authority by which to get valuable ideas in the right hands. But with BP's latest four-pronged plan remaining unproven, and estimates of company liability already reaching the tens of billions of dollars (and counting), supertankers start to look like a bargain.
...Pozzi, an American engineer then in charge of Saudi Aramco's east-west pipeline in the technical support and maintenance services division, was part of a team given cart blanche to control the blowout. Pozzi had dealt with numerous spills over the years without using chemicals, and had tried dumping flour into the oil, then scooping the resulting tar balls from the surface. "You ever cooked with flour? Absorbent, right?" Pozzi says. Next, he'd dumped straw into the spills; also highly absorbent, but then you've got a lot of straw to clean up. This spill was going to require a much larger, more sustained solution. And fast.
That's when Pozzi and his team came up with the idea of having empty ships park near the Saudi spill and pull the oil off the water. This part of the operation went on for six months, with the mop-up operations lasting for several years more. Pozzi says that 85 percent of the spilled oil was recovered, and it is precisely this strategy that he wants to see deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.
And in an update on their story from this week, there's no excuse for them not to be getting those tankers to the Gulf and the price tag is going to be cheap compared to the damage this oil is going to cause if it's not removed from the water. Mr. President, what the hell are you waiting for? Yesterday would not be too soon to force BP to do this.
Basically, these guys told us that per day, these tankers earn their owners roughly $45,000. If you were to approach one of these brokers looking to charter, on behalf of their owners they would ask a premium, maybe $1,000,000 per day, according to the broker from SSY. Negotiations would bring that down to something more acceptable to both parties, this broker said, and he also indicated that as a premium it wouldn't be unusual for the ship's owner to ask for and get ten times what it normally earns on its daily runs.
So for argument's (and BP's) sake, let's say that when BP charters the necessary tankers (and they will have to, eventually), the tanker broker makes them a deal for $450,000 a day. And let's say that BP orders up six tankers, and for a problem the size of the one they've created, these supertankers and their pumping and storage capacity are needed for six months.
At that rate, six supertankers for six months comes to $494,100,000. Round up and call it a half-billion dollars. On the ghost of Lord Browne, we are here to say that that will be the best half-billion BP every spent.
Well this is one of the more encouraging things I've heard in a while about what's going to be done about this disaster in the Gulf. When I hear they're doing more to contain and capture the oil that's already out there I'll believe the administration is finally handling this in a manner that's actually going to do some good.
Douglas Brinkley talked to Anderson Cooper about what the Obama administration is going to do to attempt to restore the Gulf coast after years and years of neglect. Even "Be the daddy" James Carville sounded impressed. I'm holding my applause until after I see some action and not talk because it's already absolutely inexcusable that they've allowed all the dispersants to be poured into the water and not done more to contain and collect the oil so far while these BP executives are allowed to go on the air and continue denying that the huge oil plumes in the Gulf even exist.
Holding BP accountable later (which I'll believe when I see it) doesn't mean much to the people whose lives have been devastated and the dead animals in the Gulf where the environment has already been destroyed.
COOPER: Doug, what do you make of -- of the way the Obama White House is -- and federal response by the Coast Guard is -- is going?
BRINKLEY: Well, I mean, there are three things, I mean, I think, big baskets, going on.
One is close that well, get the -- capture as much oil as you can, keep the pressure on BP on the relief wells. Second is immediate cleanup. And I think more can be done by the Obama administration. And I -- and but I think the big third piece is coming, when President Obama comes to Florida and Alabama and Mississippi, and that is holding BP responsible for the Natural Resource Damage Act, for the Oil Spill Response Act. And, by that, I mean BP is going to end up paying somewhere from $10 billion to $15 billion, maybe even $20 billion, because they're going -- one of the only ways to save the Louisiana wetlands is going to be -- you know, the Mississippi River has been channelized for navigation.
Well, now the Mississippi River has to be redirected. It's going to have to be flooded and sediment pumped into these marshlands to save it. I think the Obama administration...
COOPER: So, no, wait. No, wait. Doug, is this just a hope on your part?
COOPER: Or -- I mean, I know you have been talking to sources. Do you believe this is actually going to happen?
BRINKLEY: Yes. Yes.
And it's one of the reasons why the president is not talking to Tony Hayward. And they are going to come out with a large Gulf recovery act, because the oil and gas industry has been dredging. We have disappearing barrier islands. For 40 years down there, it's abused the wetlands.
This is a turning point. There is an appetite on Capitol Hill for Gulf recovery act. The Mississippi River is going to have to be redirected into the marshlands. And BP and Transocean and other, you know, operations, Cameron, other companies are going to have to pay up to $10 billion and $15 billion for breaking national acts.
BRINKLEY: In addition, for offshore drilling in the Gulf, Anderson, there will be a conservation excise tax that, yes, there will be offshore drilling, but Louisianians will start getting some of the revenue to stay in state.
CARVILLE: If -- if the president does that, I will be the biggest supporter in the world. He will be beloved in Louisiana.
If he -- if he has a restoration act and the kind of things that Doug Brinkley is talking about, who Doug, by the way, lived here. His wife is from here. He knows exactly what he is talking about. If there is that kind of action from the White House and this president, he will go down, in my opinion, as one of the great presidents in history.
And I have not hesitated to criticize him. But if that kind of action is -- that -- that kind of thing starts to happen, that's going to be a very encouraging sign for South Louisiana, and for the country, too.
COOPER: Doug, I mean, what percent -- I mean, you -- you -- you're saying this based on people you have talked to?
And what is -- one of the reasons there's a frustration, because of the legalities of calling Tony Hayward and all, the -- the Obama administration has heard what's happening loud and clear. And you are going to have the full power of the administration going on the culpable parties.
All of these little articles start building up, the -- the one we talked about on the AP with the phony report about a -- they had their wildlife expert in 2009 for BP had actually died in 2005. Or, you know, it's just crazy stuff. It's all -- Markey and others are accumulating it.
Congress is going to go after BP, and they have now broken, as I said, National Resource Damage Act, Oil Spill Response Act. And in order to save the wetlands, which BP is responsible to, it's going to be -- the Army Corps of Engineers has directed -- if you fly over, it's like a bird's foot. There are three channels.
We're now going to have to redirect Mississippi River sediment and flood the marshlands to try to save them. That will occur after this -- the well gets capped, the relief wells are built. But, in the next year or two, this will be, for President Obama administration, I think something a Tennessee Valley Authority or a Saint Lawrence Seaway under Dwight Eisenhower, a major public works act, with BP...
BRINKLEY: ... the bill.
President Obama gave his weekly address from Grand Isle, Louisiana and pledged to make sure that the business owners and residents are "made whole". Nice speech Mr. President but sadly these people will never be "made whole" because there's no way to undo the damage to the region that's already done. I also don't think that there's any question about whether laws have been broken. The question is whether they're going to be prosecuted or not and whether it's going to be underlings who go to jail or if we're ever going to see someone at the top held accountable for the damage they've done.
We'll see what action follows up the speech. Unlike the Chuck Todds and James Carvilles of the world, I could care less about how many times he goes down to the region or whether he looks like he's angry or not. I want to see some action being taken and this oil contained. So far they're not doing nearly enough. I hope that changes soon before it's too late for the areas that have not been affected yet.
It would also make me feel a lot better if I don't hear any more stories about Admiral Thad Allen and BP CEO Tony Hayward having nice cozy dinners together.
WASHINGTON- In his weekly address, President Barack Obama underscored his commitment to helping the people of the Gulf Coast recover and rebuild from the BP oil spill that has threatened their livelihoods. On Friday, the President heard from local residents and small business owners about the hardships that they are facing as a result of this catastrophe. The Administration has mobilized the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country to clean up the BP oil spill. Additionally, the federal government is working to ensure that BP and other companies are held accountable for damages and that aggressive new standards are put into place to avoid a disaster in the future.
Transcript below the fold.
What, did teabagger Michele Bachmann turn into a flaming liberal now? What the hell!!?? From Think Progress, Anti-government critic Bachmann chides Obama for not ‘commandeering’ boats to deal with the oil spill.:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a darling of the tea party movement and a loyal ally to House Republican leadership, is known for decrying almost every form of government action as socialism. Bachmann has denounced emergency loans to banks, student lending programs, health reform, and regulations as examples of “gangster” government and onerous government takeovers. “People don’t want the federal government to either own or control the private economy,” she said. But despite her opposition to government, Bachmann took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday afternoon to slam President Obama for lacking “competence” because he did not use the government to seize ships to deal with BP’s oil spill. “Where were the boats that could have been commandeered to be sent into this region to deal with the oil plume,” Bachmann thundered with characteristic disgust:
BACHMANN: The administration, they were hands off. They didn’t do anything. Where were the boats that could have been commandeered by the government to be sent into this region to deal with that oil plume as it was coming up in the water and destroying marine life? Nowhere to be found. Why? The administration was hands off on this policy.
Unbelievable. As Lee noted she's not the only one of these hypocrites now calling for the government to do more. These people are just shameless.
Okay we've got an environmental lawyer saying the same thing as a former oil company executive. Now that it looks like most of BP's attempts to cap off that oil well aren't going to work, this sounds better than what we're doing now. I would like to know why BP or the government doesn't think we should be trying this technique to get the oil out of the water.
Even if the leak is stopped tomorrow there's so much oil down there that you can't stop the environmental damage just by trying to contain it on the shores. This is the only thing I've heard anyone talk about that sounds reasonable to at least attempt to get some of that oil out of the ocean before it does more damage than it already has. I can understand why BP would not want to try it. It's costly and it prevents them from hiding how much oil has gone into the ocean. Why the government doesn't think we should be doing it is another matter. Maybe Candy Crowley or one of her cohorts at CNN can follow up on that for us.
Just as a reminder, here's what Mike Papantonio said last Monday on Hardball:
I hope he's wrong, Chris, but I hate to hear the talk coming from David Axelrod, like we're all in this together and everything's going to be OK. There are two different issues here. Stop the leak. The other issue, though, is clean up the mess. They know how to clean up the mess. Back in Saudi Arabia, in 1994, they had a 700 million dollars -- 700 million gallon spill. And you know what they did, Chris? They brought in tankers from all over the world and they sucked it up out of the bays, and they treated it. And you know what? They cleaned up 85 percent of it.
You know where those tankers are right now? They're filled up. They're waiting for the market to change so they can go unload in Asia and Europe. Those tankers have the technology and the ability to suck it right out of the water and treat it.
And here's former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister on State of the Union:
CROWLEY: Let me ask you, as you look at what's going on with BP, what it is dealing with and what it is not dealing with. Where are they falling short, or is it everywhere?
JOHN HOFMEISTER: Well, one of the things I do say in my book, Candy, is people have a hard time imagining the size, the scale, the magnitude of what happens with these oil companies and the wells that they drill. Now we see playing out in front of us the largest oil spill in the history of the country.
I think that we are still relying upon old techniques for the control of the surface oil. I think we have to change our mindset, put a new paradigm in place. And instead of dispersing and burning and booming, what about collecting? What about collecting that oil, setting up a row of barges, a wall of barges with high-volume pumps, or use of supertankers that could drift back and forth in the sea, sucking in huge volumes of, yes, water and oil, but get the water off the sea to start with?
We don't seem to be going in that direction.
CROWLEY: Could you take the oil off the sea, obviously with water, cleanse it and then put the water back in?
HOFMEISTER: Yes, that's what could be done. In fact, there was a spill not reported because of the location off the Saudi coast back in the early '90s, larger than this spill, from what I'm told, where a flotilla of supertankers did just that. They would take the oil off the surface with water, dump their load on shore. Clean the water, send it back out to the Gulf, and get the oil out of the water that way.
This is coming from a woman whose father said this:
"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." -- on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005
"We know he's been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." --March 16, 2003
"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." --March 16, 2003
"There are a lot of lessons we want to learn out of this process in terms of what works. I think we are in fact on our way to getting on top of the whole Katrina exercise." --Sept. 10, 2005
Of course the name Halliburton or her father's energy policy that helped bring this disaster about never came up in the conversation. She has no credibility to be criticizing anyone about what's going on in the Gulf now, but that's not going to stop Fox from giving Mini-Me-Cheney a chance to lob political stink bombs at every opportunity.
Wallace: Liz, I think it's fair to say that Katrina marked a turning point in the public's view of George W. Bush. Does this have the same potential downside for President Obama?
Cheney: I think it does because I think we begin to get into the issues here of credibility and leadership where it's about, it's bigger than just this particular crisis and catastrophe. You've got a President now who thinks that saying something makes it so. You know you showed it in the last segment when he said "I'm going to have the most transparent administration in history" but that doesn't actually mean you're going to be open and transparent. It's not the same thing as we've seen with him.
On the war he says "I know we're at war" but he doesn't understand he actually has to lead us in the fight. Words themselves aren't enough. And, you know, going down to Louisiana and saying gosh, you know "I'm heartbroken, I'm angry, I'm frustrated" and then going on vacation to Chicago, really doesn't send a message that this is a man who's leading.
And at the end of the day, I disagree with Bill on this, I think actually there is more that the federal government could be doing in terms of approving the licenses for the berms that Governor Jindal has asked for, in terms of responding more quickly to the requests that are coming in from the parish presidents, not pushing this all off onto BP. And I think people sense when an administration is really in charge and really leading and when they aren't.
And so I think you know, the Obama administration has got a problem here, not having learned from the lessons of Katrina and you know, really confirming in people's minds frankly that a gift for reading a teleprompter is not the same as leadership.
BP proves themselves to be once again looking out for nothing but their own liability, even if it means the lives of those who are working for them like these out of work fishermen they recruited for the oil cleanup. One more reason this should be looking at criminal charges against these companies. From Democracy Now.
At least seven fishermen involved in the cleanup of the BP oil spill were hospitalized on Wednesday after reporting nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. The fishermen were likely exposed to both the leaked oil and chemical dispersants. As a precautionary measure, the Coast Guard has ordered all 125 commercial ships helping with the cleanup to return to land. For weeks, cleanup crews hired by BP have been reporting health issues, but their complaints have largely been ignored. We speak to Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, and Albert Huang, an environmental justice attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In Louisiana, seven fishermen involved in the cleanup of the BP oil spill were hospitalized on Wednesday after reporting nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. The crew members were working aboard three separate vessels. The fishermen were likely exposed to both the leaked oil and chemical dispersants. As a precautionary measure, the Unified Command has ordered all 125 commercial ships helping with the cleanup in Breton Sound, Louisiana to return to land.
For weeks, cleanup crews hired by BP have been reporting health issues, but their complaints have largely been ignored. As recently as Tuesday, BP spokesperson Graham MacEwen told the Los Angeles Times he was unaware of any health complaints among cleanup workers. BP has refused to provide respirators to many hired fishermen, and the company has reportedly threatened to fire workers who use their own respirators on the job.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now in New Orleans by Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. He’s a third-generation shrimp fisherman.
This is Democracy Now! We welcome you to the studios of Democracy Now!, though we’re speaking to you in New Orleans. Tell us what’s happening, Clint.
CLINT GUIDRY: Well, good morning. Thanks for having me.
This is a situation that has been ongoing for several weeks now. Having had prior training and experience working with the oil and the chemicals in oil and their danger—[no audio]—several of the fishermen out on the worksite, they were complaining of burning eyes and strong smells. And my experience told me that they were getting exposed to dangerous chemicals—the benzenes, all the light ends off the crude—and this Corexit is a new experience for me. I have been doing some research. It contains a substance called 2-butoxyethanol, up to 60 percent by volume, which is a very, very dangerous chemical. I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but just doing the research. And I knew that they spraying this chemical in the same area where my fishermen were working. And I have brought this to light. I have tried to make public. As a matter of fact, just a couple of days ago, three days ago, I met with a Washington delegation in Galliano and expressed my concerns that this was happening.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, Clint Guidry, what about OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration? Aren’t they supposed to be monitoring worksites that involve US companies, even if they’re offshore?
CLINT GUIDRY: I’m not sure about that, but I’m understanding it’s MMS and US Coast Guard in this situation.
AMY GOODMAN: What about respirators? Are people wearing respirators?
CLINT GUIDRY: No, ma’am. Having had prior experience, I know these people. They’re friends. They’re family. I bought respirators, and I brought them down to these people. And when they tried to wear them, the BP representatives on site told them that it wasn’t a dangerous situation, and they didn’t need to wear them, and if they did, they would be taken off the job.
AMY GOODMAN: If they wore respirators, they’d be taken off the job?
CLINT GUIDRY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
CLINT GUIDRY: Because BP lies, and BP protects BP. And that is the biggest problem we have in the south of Louisiana right now, is BP, with its big oil big money, is buying up all the cover—and when I say "cover" I mean camouflage—that they can to try to make a little of the situation, not only environmentally, but health-wise. This is ridiculous.
AMY GOODMAN: But how does wearing respirators threaten BP? How do the workers, the cleanup crews, wearing respirators, how does that threaten BP?
CLINT GUIDRY: If you would do your research, the same situation occurred with Exxon Valdez over twenty years ago. It is a question of liability. The minute BP declares that there is a respiratory danger on the situation is the day that they let the door open for liability suits down the line. If they could have gotten away with covering this up, like they did in Alaska Valdez situation, like Exxon, they would not have to pay a penny for any kind of health-related claims.