Greenpeace posts huge volume of documents obtained by FOIA; some emails suggest that certain response measures were not scientifically sound
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — As oil gushed from BP’s ruined Deepwater Horizon drilling operation last summer, federal officials hastily approved all sorts of emergency measures, including major dredging projects aimed at protecting low-lying coastal areas and beaches with sand berms.
But a chain of emails among various federal officials obtained by Greenpeace under a Freedom of Information Act request indicate concern about an “extraordinarily high” level of sea turtle mortality and suggests that approval of the dredging was rushed, taking place even before the head of NOAA’s sea turtle program had a chance to review the plans.
The approval may have been a politically motivated decision, according to Barbara Schroeder, sea turtle coordinator for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service:
“This is insult to injury for a politically forced berm project that all experts say will fail and is ecologically unsound,” Schroeder wrote in a July 10 email to other NOAA officials.
“This issue has a strong potential for media and NGO attention … On top of the problems the oil and the oil cleanup are causing, this berm project now being conducted is not only destroying foraging habitat, it is directly disrupting and harming turtles as well – including at least one mortality in a very brief time period,” Schroeder wrote in another email describing how many sea turtles were being affected by the dredging.
The emails go on to describe continual problems with the dredging operations. At one point, the NOAA officials discuss involving local law enforcement officials in boarding operations on the dredge boats and trawlers.
Here’s Schroeder again, writing to NOAA colleagues on July 1:
“Someone higher up the food chain needs to be involved in this meeting. I don’t know how else to say this in how many different ways but we are a small handful of people trying to cover what in a normal situation would compose a lifetime of work for multiple individuals, across everything we are faced with in response, NRDA, now restoration, public affairs, near term and long term research development, multiple masters, etc. etc.. Every day there are new issues, new directives, new exploding situations – e.g., yesterday COE tells us the hopper dredges are coming out of the river to likely high density turtle habitat to build the “berm”, and that they will soon have many trawlers working to catch turtle around these dredges, there could be 0,10,20,30,40 oiled or non-oiled turtles a day — how do we get all those turtles to unoiled safe habitat, how do we get all those potentially oiled turtles to rehab, how do we organize the portslthe transport, they don’t know anything about chain of custody on the COE side, etc etc etc. It’s getting worse, not better.”
These exchanges are just a small excerpt from about 30,000 pages of documents related to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster that have been posted publicly by Greenpeace. The organization is asking the public to help sift through the material. Here’s an excerpt from the Greenpeace blog:
“While some of the agencies have simply ignored our requests, others have gotten back with some interesting documents. The problem is we simply don’t have time to go through them all. The Guardian ran a series of stories about them last week but no one has the manpower to read the fine print. Plus, we’re getting more through the letterbox almost every day.”
The reports, emails and other documents are posted online at this file-sharing website.
Filed under: BP Gulf oil spill, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology Tagged: | BP oil spill, Deepwater Horizon, endangered species, Environment, Greenpeace, Kemp's ridley, national marine fisheries service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sea turtles, Summit County News