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BP hit with $4.5 billion fine for Gulf oil spill

Company accepts criminal responsibility for 2010 disaster

A NASA satellite captures an image of a swirling oil slick from BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After spending more than $14 billion on the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP will pay another $4.5 billion in penalties under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the biggest fine ever levied by the department.

Federal officials said they will also pursue gross negligence charges under the Clean Water Act, which could result in up to $20 billion in additional fines, ranging up to $4,300 per barrel of spilled oil.

The explosion killed 11 workers on the drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico and sent millions of gallons of crude oil spewing into the water, damaging fisheries, smearing beaches and wetlands and squelching tourism in the region for months. Followup studies have shown that oil remnants may affect Gulf ecosystems for years to come. Continue reading

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Gulf oysters tainted with heavy metals from oil spill

Researchers denied access to pure samples of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — BP’s oil continues to have toxic after-effects two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists tracking the long-term impacts have found devastated corals on the sea floor, sick dolphins in coastal areas and most recently, heavy metal contamination in Gulf oysters linked to the oil.

“While there is still much to be done as we work to evaluate the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the Gulf’s marine food web, our preliminary results suggest that heavy metals from the spill have impacted one of the region’s most iconic primary consumers and may affect the food chain as a whole,” said Dr. Peter Roopnarine, of the California Academy of Sciences.

Roopnarine has detected evidence that pollutants from the oil have entered the ecosystem’s food chain. For the past two years, the team has been studying oysters (Crassostrea virginica) collected both before and after the Deepwater Horizon oil reached the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. Continue reading

Environment: Gulf drilling permits challenged in court

Gulf residents rally for oil spill health care bill, new leak detected off Louisiana

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in flames after a deadly explosion in 2010.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —For federal permitting agencies, it might be back to business as usual on oil drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico — but that’s not the case for Gulf Coast residents still feeling the aftermath of last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Many will rally today at the Capitol in Baton Rouge to call for passage of  the Oil Spill Health Bill (HB 389) sponsored by Representative Patrick Connick. The bill would step up monitoring for oil spill-related health impacts. More information here: Oil Spill Health Bill (HB 389).

At the same time, environmental groups monitoring the northern Gulf have detected a new oil spill in the past few days. SkyTruth reported on the new slick via Twitter:

The source of the oil was identified early Monday morning:

The slick isn’t far from the Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The National Wildlife Federation is reporting on the latest spill here. Continue reading

BP makes $1 billion ‘downpayment’ for Gulf restoration

Volunteers replanting a salt marsh in Louisiana. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Gulf states to split the money for high priority projects

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A $1 billion payment by BP will go toward rebuilding of coastal marshes, replenishing damaged beaches, conservation of sensitive areas for ocean habitat for injured wildlife, and restoration of barrier islands and wetlands that provide natural protection from storms, the federal government said, announcing what’s being called a voluntary “downpayment” toward BP’s obligation to fund the complete restoration of injured public resources, including the loss of use of those resources by the people living, working and visiting the area.

The money will be split among Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, the Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“This milestone agreement will allow us to jump-start restoration projects that will bring Gulf Coast marshes, wetlands, and wildlife habitat back to health after the damage they suffered as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This agreement accelerates our work on Gulf Coast restoration and in no way limits the ability of all the Natural Resource Trustees from seeking full damages from those who are responsible as the natural resource damage assessment process moves forward.” Continue reading

Oil spill: One year later

Activists mark anniversary with protests, Gulf residents work toward recovery

Oil in the Gulf of Mexico. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. COAST GUARD.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Dozens of environmental, climate, and social justice groups  targetec government and corporate operations with  protests and civil disobedience in an international day of direct action against extraction organized by Rising Tide North America to commemorate the first anniversary of BP’s Gulf oil disaster. The protests were organized to demand an end to the environmental destruction and climate destabilization created by fossil fuel and other extraction industries.

Continue reading

Watchdog groups team up for aerial Gulf surveillance

Inaccurate, confusing and misleading government information shows need for independent environmental monitoring

Aerial surveillance by SouthWings discovered this oil spill last summer. Gerry Ellis/Minden Pictures courtesy SouthWings. Click to read the story about this leak on the SkyTruth blog.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Conflicting and often inaccurate information about last year’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico led to confusion and even affected the government response to the disaster, showing the need for better monitoring, said SkyTruth president John Amos, announcing the formation of a new partnership with the Waterkeeper Alliance and SouthWings that will systematically monitor the Gulf using satellite images and mapping, aerial reconnaissance and photography, and on-the-water observation and sampling.

Perhaps the best example of the need for independent monitoring came early during the disaster, when BP and the government drastically underestimated the rate of the leak, with consequences not only for the environment, but for the amount of the fines that BP will pay.

“The difference in the amount of the fines could be as much as $16 billion,” Amos said, referring to the company’s low-ball figures and the true amount of oil that gushed from BP’s failed well. “That could go a long way toward restoration. Damaging rumors and speculation take hold in the absence of good information, leading people in Gulf communities still reeling from the BP disaster to fear the worst: another major offshore spill,”  Amos said. Continue reading

EPA faces lawsuit over dispersant use in Gulf oil spill

Coast Guard vessels try to extinguish the burning Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. COAST GUARD.

Environmental group wants feds to study and disclose impacts of dispersants, as marine biologists continue to document an unusually high number of dead whales and dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — One year after the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA is facing a potential lawsuit over the widespread use of chemical oil dispersants.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed an official notice of its intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for authorizing the use of the dispersants without ensuring that these chemicals would not harm endangered species or their habitats.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the EPA must pre-approve the use of chemical dispersants in the event of an oil spill, but has not taken steps to ensure that the use of these chemicals will not jeopardize endangered wildlife. The Center’s notice requests that the agency immediately study the effects of dispersants on endangered and threatened species such as sea turtles, endangered whales, piping plovers and corals.

“The Gulf of Mexico disaster was a wake-up call about the inadequacy of current oil-spill response technology,” said Deirdre McDonnell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Before the next spill happens, the government needs to ensure that these dispersants don’t do more harm than good to threatened and endangered species.” Continue reading

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