What BP And General Custer Had In Common

Oil spill commission hearing provides grim oil spill testimony

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Yesterday, in a report on the government’s oil spill commission hearing, we wrote of the mounting scientific evidence that a bunch of spilled, toxic oil still haunts the Gulf and may  be resistant to degradation. Today, we revisit the testimony and empasize some very strong conclusions offered by hearing witnesses.

The commission’s co-chair, former senator Bob Graham, compared BP’s oil spill plan to how General George Custer prepared for his last campaign: overestimation of the fighting capability, underestimation of the foe, and a heavy resulting price to be paid.

An article by US News and World Report offers a particularly concise look at two of the most persuasive witnesses: oceanographer Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia, and scientist Ian MacDonald from Florida State University. The full story is worth reading, but here are the two key takeaways:

  • More than half of the oil escaped attempts to disperse, burn or skim it, and likely is puddled in deep sediments where microbes can’t eat it. It’s long-range impact can only be guessed.
  • The highly publicized, highly controversial spraying of nearly 2 million gallons of toxic dispersants probably affected only 10 percent of the oil. For this minor accomplishment, we exposed a vast area of Gulf sea life to substances that have never been tested on a large scale.

We will report on today’s final day of the hearing as information becomes available.

From 2006–2014, Terry was managing editor for Earthjustice's blog, online monthly newsletter and print Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.