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oceans

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.

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:

<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.

 

 

<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.

 

<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.

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.
 

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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.