Posts tagged: oceans

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

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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.

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View Patti Goldman's blog posts
11 August 2010, 1:11 PM
Law basically ignored when Gulf oil started spilling
Dispersant being sprayed in Gulf

More than 1,8 million gallons. That's the amount of dispersant applied to the Gulf oil spill. Unfortunately, dispersants were used in the Gulf in unprecedented ways and amounts, turning the Gulf into a massive experiment largely keeping the public in the dark as to the risks these dispersants pose.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. In the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Congress enacted a new law calling for advance study and approval of dispersants as part of oil spill response planning. The performance of both government regulators and the industry fell far short of the promise and dictates of this law.

During the first few weeks of the Gulf spill, the names of the ingredients in Corexit—the dispersant being used in massive amounts—were kept secret. The secret ingredients were identified only after congressional demands, media outcry and a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Earthjustice.

2 Comments   /  
View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
10 August 2010, 2:19 PM
Noisy gas and oil drilling surveys upset fragile marine ecosystems
Narwahls can't fight noise with their fearsome tooth

All of you have had that errant neighbor who decides to throw a party at 2 a.m., and the next day you are groggy and temperamental—not your best self.

Now imagine having to contend with that loud noise 24 hours a day—as marine animals in the Gulf of Mexico must because of oil and gas drilling surveys.

Earthjustice joined a lawsuit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (formerly the Minerals Management Service) to challenge its approval of these surveys.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
09 August 2010, 1:14 PM
Crab larvae found to contain oil

There is now evidence that oil from BP's Gulf spill has entered the food chain at the microscopic level—proving that while the oil is mostly out of sight, it is not out of our lives.

According to an AP report today, larvae of the blue crab have been found to contain oil they absorbed and will pass on to larger predators that eat them. As AP says:

The government said last week that three-quarters of the spilled oil has been removed or naturally dissipated from the water. But the crab larvae discovery was an ominous sign that crude had already infiltrated the Gulf's vast food web—and could affect it for years to come.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
04 August 2010, 7:40 AM
Consequences and lots of hidden oil still remain
Leatherback turtles are among the species to encounter sub-surface oil from BP's exploded well

<Update: Today, even as President Obama declared the BP oil spill all but over (thank God he didn't declare "mission accomplished"), a Senate subcommittee hearing on dispersants opened. Almost immediately, Sen. Frank Lautenberg gave a dire warning:

Relief workers and wildlife in the gulf have become unwitting participants in a dangerous science experiment...There are enough warning signs about the risks of the dispersants to know that we need more federal testing.>

And so....more than three months after it started...BP's exploded oil plugged. The biggest unintentional oil spill in history has been staunched.

This news comes as White House energy advisor Carole Browner assures us that 3/4's of the spilled oil has been disappeared through the processes of evaporation, skimming, burning, microbe-eating and dispersal. "The vast majority of the oil has now been contained, it’s been skimmed, Mother Nature has done its part, it’s evaporated...So I think we’re turning a corner here."

Time to start celebrating?

Sure, let's throw a party for all those hard-working people in the Gulf whose livelihoods and lifestyles have been disrupted and even destroyed by this disaster. And while we are at it, let's have a memorial for the uncountable numbers of birds, turtles, mammals, fish and microscopic life forms slaughtered by the spill's toxic, suffocating impacts.

But, let's not spend too much time tooting the vuvuzelas.

6 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
29 July 2010, 1:55 PM
Oil hiding underwater is now coming ashore in globs and blobs
Planes sprays dispersant on Gulf oil

<Update (7/30): At least 40 percent of oil spilled by BP into the Gulf is unaccounted for, but that doesn't mean it's gone, warns a USA Today article. It's still out there, hidden and toxic.>

<Update (7/30): The New York Times, in a special report, provides strong evidence that dispersants have driven BP's spilled oil out of sight - but it still exists throughout the Gulf's water columns and remains lethal:

Scientists warn the oil's ecological impacts are shifting, not ebbing, thanks to massive volumes of dispersants that have kept the crude beneath the waves.>

After BP's undersea well was capped two weeks ago, oil from it started getting hard to see on the surface - so much so that even top government officials have publicly scratched their heads over what happened to it.

Could it have been blasted into nothingness by all those millions of gallons of dispersants? Did microbes simply gobble it up? Could the hot sun and warm waters of the Gulf just evaporate it? All those scenarios were suggested in the last few days by officials who sounded more perplexed than convinced.

But, no one is less perplexed and more convinced than an angry Mother Jones reporter who used a phone to find locals in Louisiana who are seeing thick mats and globs of oil coming ashore. Could it be that Plaquemines Parish President Bill Nungusser was right last month when he insisted that all the oil was being dispersed into the depths, where it coats the Gulf bottom, killing oysters, shrimp and fish before eventually washing ashore? 

Nungusser may be on to something. At least he's in the right ballpark when he starts wondering what all those dispersants are accomplishing.



View Terry Winckler's blog posts
27 July 2010, 12:36 PM
Lots of spilled oil remains, but out of reach of clean up crews
Oil skimmers in Gulf of Mexico

<Update 7/27: Oil spilled from BP's Gulf well is rapidly evaporating and/or being eaten by microbes, probably ending any danger that it will hitch a ride on currents around Florida and onto the East Coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. But huge undersea volumes of it remain - as do horrific environmental problems.>

Don't look now, but oil from BP's blown-out well is getting harder to find. ABC News reports that oil skimmers just two weeks ago were scooping up 25,000 gallons of oily water per day, but last Thursday captured only 200 gallons.

Of course, skimmers are literally only skimming the surface of an oil spill problem that still lurks deep underwater across a vast expanse of the Gulf. Consider that most of the 200-million gallons of oil, which gushed unchecked for nearly three months, never made it to the surface and when it did was bombed by more than a million gallons of toxic dispersants. In addition, the crude has been whipped apart by storms, tides and currents. Much has been eaten by microbes.

What's left, in the mile-deep zone between source of leakage and the surface is a situation never quite faced before. As ABC concludes:

Experts stress that even though there's less and less oil as time goes on, there's still plenty around the spill site. And in the long term, no one knows what the impact of those hundreds of millions of gallons will be, deep in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.


View David Guest's blog posts
22 July 2010, 9:25 AM
Nightmare is easing, but the toll and cleanup are at hand

We have our fingers crossed here in Florida that the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is finally plugged. This has been a nightmare summer for all of us.

Now we begin the grim tasks of assessing the damage to vast stretches of some of the most productive wetlands and shorelines in the world—wetlands that no one knows how to clean up.

We will see what toll the oil and dispersants take on wildlife. And we will see how oil, sprayed by dispersants and now floating around in the water column, behaves in storms.

Our other task is to make sure that the government and the oil industry learn from this disaster.

3 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
21 July 2010, 4:16 PM
Senate bill would greatly improve testing and use of chemicals

<Editor's Note: Our newest blogger, Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman-Lados, compiled this report.>

The response to the oil spill in the Gulf has exposed fundamental flaws in the current system for regulating the use of chemical dispersants. Since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded, BP has added nearly two million gallons of dispersants to the waters of the Gulf.

BP's use of dispersant is unprecedented—not only in volume but also because it is being applied under the surface of the water, at the source of the leak. Yet the potential health and environmental effects of the use of the dispersant are not well understood.

Last week, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation to force EPA to release health and safety information related to dispersants. This information is crucial for residents and workers who may be exposed to the dispersant and, also, for researchers.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
15 July 2010, 2:22 PM
Cap contains the spill, but will it hold?

For nearly 90 days, oil from the BP spill has been plaguing the Gulf of Mexico. The oily wound left by an explosion that killed 11 rig workers on the Deepwater Horizon platform has now bled as much as 180 million gallons of crude oil into our waters.

It's almost hard to believe, but a few hours ago, the flow into the Gulf finally stopped. BP installed a 75-ton cap that—for the time being—is preventing any more crude from escaping. This is a hopeful sign, but given how much has gone wrong with previous efforts to stem the flow, we're clearly not out of the woods yet. Additionally, the cap, even if it holds, is only a temporary solution. Two relief wells, expected to be complete sometime in August, are the only method for plugging the spill for good.

The fact that oil has stopped leaking is nonetheless a significant and welcome development. We're hopeful that the cap will hold and that the ever-expanding spill has finally reached its maximum. But reports today that hundreds of oiled pelicans and terns have turned up in Louisiana's largest seabird nesting area are a sad reminder of the extensive damage already caused by the spill. Gulf residents, businesses, wildlife, and ecosystems will take a long time to recover from this tragedy, and they need our support in the process of rebuilding.

View Brian Smith's blog posts
14 July 2010, 4:12 PM
Public has the right to know

Under the federal Toxics Substances Control Act, chemical manufacturers are required to submit health and safety studies to the EPA. Other federal law requires manufacturers of the oil dispersants being used by BP to submit data on the toxicity and effectiveness of the dispersants.

Earthjustice went to court today representing the Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation to get that information.

While the EPA has disclosed the secret ingredients of the two chemical dispersants, the agency has not released the health and safety studies. The lawsuit also seeks to uncover what's in other chemical dispersants approved for use by the EPA on oil spills.

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