Destroying The Gulf In 80 Days, And Counting

Can't surf here. Photo: John King

Above: Can’t surf here. Photo: johnpaulking.net

Speed and accuracy are certainly not themes revolving around BP’s clean up of the largest natural disaster this world has ever seen. If so there wouldn’t have been failure after failure to thwart the geyser of black gold. The most recent estimates have the total barrels spewing a day between 35,000 and 60,000. BP is still drilling two relief wells that are intended to intercept the blown-out well—intended being the keyword.

Currently there are two ships capable of collecting large amounts of oil in the Gulf. The largest oil skimming boat in the world, “A Whale”, is making rounds in the Gulf and can supposedly collect 21-million gallons a day. “Helix Producer” is waiting near the broken well to connect to it and can bring in 25,000 barrels a day. But bad weather from Hurricane Alex that sent solid hurricane surf to Texas hampered those projects last week, and they are starting up again this week in hopes of collecting as much oil as possible.

Oil and the technologies surrounding it have promised America everything. The oil empires will do all they can to penetrate our earth to excavate it. But as we have witnessed, man is not in control of his machines. The risks of deepwater drilling (drilling in more than 500 feet of water) were sorely underestimated. And now 1,505 birds, 447 sea turtles, and 54 mammals have innocently been killed by oil—not to mention the 1,000+ more animals that have been oiled but are still alive. Tar balls collected along the Mississippi Sound have totaled 1,700 pounds in one collection, and numbers like these are seen throughout the Gulf. There is even word that the Atlantic side of Florida has been seeing tar balls wash up on their beaches.

Just to get some size reference of these tar balls. Photo: John King

Above: Just to get some size reference of these tar balls. Photo: johnpaulking.net

Last month a federal judge in New Orleans, a one Martin L. C. Feldman, blocked the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling projects that President Barack Obama had put in place so we could greater understand the risks involved. Feldman’s reasoning? Further potential economic hazards to those in the Gulf regions. He wrote, “The blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger.”

But the Obama administration made a reactionary move today, asking federal judges to reinstate the six-month ban. The Interior Department issued a statement saying, “A short-term suspension of deepwater drilling while safety regulations are updated is necessary to achieve the goals of prudent and safe oil and gas exploration.” A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, will hear arguments in the case today.

James Pribram of the Eco Warrior Project has been on the frontlines documenting the occurrences in the Gulf along with Mary Osborne and Chuck Patterson. They are currently set up in Gulfport, Mississippi and have been doing protest paddles cloaked in HAZMAT suits. Here’s a few interesting observations he shared with me over the phone the other day:

“I went up to Grand Isle yesterday, it’s completely locked down. I mean the beach is closed, you can’t go in the water, you can’t swim, you can’t walk on the beach with your dog. You can totally smell the oil, and last night my throat was a little funky, and I woke up this morning feeling terrible. I put on my respirator this morning and within 10 minutes I was feeling better. It was obviously a respiratory thing.

“Grand Isle is this weird place, this big oil town. We went to this place where they made this makeshift graveyard and there’s all these white crosses and we got out and were filming it and checking it out. All the sudden this truck shows up and these three punk kids that work for BP get out all hammered and drinking beer. They go, ‘Oh what are you guys from California? You gonna save the world?’

“There’s gotta be better ways, better solutions. Because what I saw yesterday at Grand Isle made me sick to my stomach. Literally. I mean miles and miles of beach completely closed, oil boom everywhere. I can’t even find the words to articulate what it’s like. It’s like a nuclear bomb went off.

“I think this is the crux in our world. Either this is gonna put us on to finding better ways, better solutions, or it’s not. But either way this is gonna come to an end. It can either be positive or negative. I’m hoping it ends up in positive light.”

After all, what have we gained from these wagers and efforts? What have we brought back from this long and weary journey of 80 days in the Gulf? Nothing, say you?—Ryan Brower

Gonna be years before the waters surfable in these parts. Photo: John King

Above: Gonna be years before the waters surfable in these parts. Photo: johnpaulking.net

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

From Surfrider’s Not the answer blog.

Volunteer Response Resources

Surfrider volunteer oil spill toolkit

Volunteer Phone numbers: (state-specific contact information below)

Deepwater Horizon Incident Volunteer Hotline: 866-448-5816

Vessel of Opportunities Program – Fishermen should phone 425-745-8017

Fact sheets related to oil spills in general and this spill:
http://www.piersystem.com/go/doctype/2931/53023/
http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/deepwaterhorizon
http://gulfseagrant.tamu.edu/oilspill/index.htm

http://www.eoearth.org/article/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill

Official Response Resources

Deepwater Horizon Response
Twitter:
http://twitter.com/usnoaagov
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/usnoaagov
Podcasts: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html
NOAA Roles and Tools:
http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/topics/oceans/spills/
EPA: http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/

Phone numbers:

NOAA media inquiries: keeley.belva@noaa.gov or 301-713-3066
For response inquiries: Joint Information Center (JIC) at 985-902-5231 or 985-902-5240

BP Horizon Response Hotline: 281-366-5511

To report oil, or general Community and Volunteer Information: 866-448-5816

To report oiled or injured wildlife: 866-557-1401

Coast Guard officials say not to pick up any tar balls you find and to report them at (800) 424-8802

Florida Specific Volunteer Information:

Oil spill related clean up: http://www.volunteerfloridadisaster.org/
Opportunities will be posted as they become available.

If you live in these areas and want to help:
Okaloosa County call: 850-651-7150

Bay County call: 763-6587

Walton County: go to
http://www.waltonso.org/

The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, Florida needs volunteers and donations to support their educational and research work.

Florida Gulf Recovery Jobs
http://gulfrecoveryjobs.employflorida.com/portals/gulfrecoveryjobs/

Florida DEP is not encouraging private citizens to clean up shorelines. However, should a homeowner have oil soaked materials, there are two options:

  • Have the homeowners contact 1-866-448-5816 and someone will be sent out to retrieve the oiled materials.
  • Emerald County Utilities Authority (ECUA) will provide several 55 gallon drums at certain walk crossovers on Pensacola Beach. They will be marked for oil debris only. BP/ Waste Management will be responsible for all collection and disposal. ECUA has provided the containers at no charge to help with the response.

Florida Information Numbers and Websites:

DEP Related Media Questions: Amy Graham at 850-245-2112 or -2113
Florida Emergency Information Line: 800-342-3557
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) incident response website: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon/default.htm

Resources in Other Gulf States:

Louisiana: http://www.volunteerlouisiana.gov/
Mississippi:
http://www.volunteermississippi.org/1800Vol/OpenIndexAction.do
Alabama:
http://www.servealabama.gov/2010/default.aspx

Also see:
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Galveston Bay Foundation
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources – (228) 374-5000
Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
Restore America’s Estuaries
Save Our Gulf
National Audubon Society

More Information & Call to Action

Thanks to everyone (there were more than 100,000 participants across the U.S. and worldwide) who came out to their local beaches last Saturday to join hands and draw an actual and a metaphorical line in the sand against offshore oil drilling and for clean energy.

Help us track oil spill impacts at: http://oilspill.skytruth.org/

Urge Obama and Congress to ban new drilling: http://www.surfrider.org/nodrilling