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Day 30 of Oil Spill—Time For Government Independence

<Update: The EPA is finally hearing, and acting on, concerns about toxic dispersants used by BP in breaking up its Gulf oil spill. EPA today ordered BP to choose a less-harmful form of dispersant. More than 600,000 gallons have been sprayed by BP to date.>

<Update: BP said today it is collecting 5,000 barrels of oil each day from its Gulf spill—equaling the total amount BP has claimed is leaking—and yet, oil continues to gush from the well. Starting tonight, BP said it will start providing a live video feed from the leaking well at this web site.>

Great question to Interior Sec. Ken Salazar this morning on ABC TV: why can't we get exact numbers for how much oil is spilling from the Gulf of Mexico oil well?

Answer: We're trying, and will start looking beyond what British Petroleum tells us.

Conclusion: No one knows, so whose numbers are we to trust—the 5,000 barrels per day guesstimated by BP, and which the government has endorsed? Or, maybe those of independent scientists who think the spill is 10 or 12 times bigger? Today, for the first time, Salazar promised to do some independent surveying.

Government dependence on oil industry assurances, on this one-month anniversary of the Gulf spill, is what this disaster has brought to light, and is why Earthjustice has been pressing so hard in court and on Capitol Hill for a halt to government endorsement of too-risky, unproven exploratory drilling in our offshore waters. We can't sacrifice any more of the Gulf, and definitely not Arctic waters, just because the oil industry says it's OK.

In all fairness, as the Associated Press reveals today in an investigative report, America's government isn't the only one locked in unholy marriage with the industry. Governments around the world have marched up the same aisle. Hopefully, this oil spill will end the honeymoons.

Meanwhile, MSNBC's Cosmic Log gives us a pretty succinct sum up of the Gulf spill on Day 30:

It's finally sinking in among environmental experts, policymakers and the general public that this spill is unlike any other. The impact will be felt hundreds of miles away from the deep-sea leak, for years after it's been stopped.

Although heavy oil is beginning to soak into coastal wetlands and now has hitchiked strong currents towards Florida and beyond, the spill's impacts have mostly been unseen, the article points out:

Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska marine biologist who has been helping out Greenpeace, said "a lot of the damage that has occurred over this past month has been offshore and in the water column, and that's not the kind of place we're used to seeing." The spill is just now entering the phase where the effects are becoming visible onshore, he said.

"There's a lot about this spill that nobody has seen before," he said.

However, Steiner said merely tightening regulations for oil drilling won't be enough. In his view, the past month's troubles have provided "a clear view into the cost of oil." He said the White House and Congress shouldn't expand offshore drilling, but instead should lay the groundwork for an energy economy based on higher efficiency and renewable energy.

About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.