Gulf Coast Oil Spill

VENICE, La. – An oil spill that threatened to eclipse even the Exxon Valdez disaster spread out of control with a faint sheen washing ashore along the Gulf Coast Thursday night as fishermen rushed to scoop up shrimp and crews spread floating barriers around marshes.

The spill was bigger than imagined – five times more than first estimated – and closer. Fingers of oily sheen were reaching the Mississippi River delta, lapping the Louisiana shoreline in long, thin lines.

“It is of grave concern,” David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press. “I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling.”

The oil slick could become America’s worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world’s richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life. Oil was thickening in waters south and east of the Mississippi delta about 5 miles offshore.

The leak from the ocean floor proved to be far bigger than initially reported, contributing to a growing sense among many in Louisiana that the government failed them again, just as it did during Hurricane Katrina. President Barack Obama dispatched Cabinet officials to deal with the crisis.

Cade Thomas, a fishing guide in Venice, worried that his livelihood will be destroyed. He said he did not know whether to blame the Coast Guard, the federal government or oil company BP PLC.

“They lied to us. They came out and said it was leaking 1,000 barrels when I think they knew it was more. And they weren’t proactive,” he said. “As soon as it blew up, they should have started wrapping it with booms.”

The Coast Guard worked with BP, which operated the oil rig that exploded and sank last week, to deploy floating booms, skimmers and chemical dispersants, and set controlled fires to burn the oil off the water’s surface.

The company has requested more resources from the Defense Department, especially underwater equipment that might be better than what is commercially available. A BP executive said the corporation would “take help from anyone.”

Government officials said the blown-out well 40 miles offshore is spewing five times as much oil into the water as originally estimated – about 5,000 barrels, or 200,000 gallons, a day.

At that rate, the spill could eclipse the worst oil spill in U.S. history – the 11 million gallons that leaked from the grounded tanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989 – in the three months it could take to drill a relief well and plug the gushing well 5,000 feet underwater on the sea floor.

Ultimately, the spill could grow much larger than the Valdez because Gulf of Mexico wells typically hold many times more oil than a single tanker.

Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP Exploration and Production, had initially disputed the government’s larger estimate. But he later acknowledged on NBC’s “Today” show that the leak may be as bad as federal officials say. He said there was no way to measure the flow at the seabed, so estimates have to come from how much oil rises to the surface.

Mike Brewer, 40, who lost his oil spill response company in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina nearly five years ago, said the area was accustomed to the occasional minor spill. But he feared the scale of the escaping oil was beyond the capacity of existing resources.

“You’re pumping out a massive amount of oil. There is no way to stop it,” he said.

An emergency shrimping season was opened to allow shrimpers to scoop up their catch before it is fouled by oil. Cannons were to be used to scare off birds. And shrimpers were being lined up to use their boats as makeshift skimmers in the shallows.

This murky water and the oysters in it have provided a livelihood for three generations of Frank and Mitch Jurisich’s family in Louisiana.

Now, on the open water just beyond the marshes, they can smell the oil that threatens everything they know and love.

“Just smelling it, it puts more of a sense of urgency, a sense of fear,” Frank Jurisich said.

The brothers hope to get all the oysters they can sell before the oil washes ashore. They filled more than 100 burlap sacks Thursday and stopped to eat some oysters. “This might be our last day,” Mitch Jurisich said.

Without the fishing industry, Frank Jurisich said the family “would be lost. This is who we are and what we do.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday so officials could begin preparing for the oil’s impact. He said at least 10 wildlife management areas and refuges in his state and neighboring Mississippi are in the oil plume’s path.

The declaration also noted that billions of dollars have been invested in coastal restoration projects that may be at risk. He also asked the federal government if he could call up 6,000 National Guard troops to help.

As dawn broke Thursday in the oil industry hub of Venice, about 75 miles from New Orleans and not far from the mouth of the Mississippi River, crews loaded an orange oil boom aboard a supply boat at Bud’s Boat Launch. There, local officials expressed frustration with the pace of the government’s response and the communication they were getting from the Coast Guard and BP officials.

“We’re not doing everything we can do,” said Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, which straddles the Mississippi River at the tip of Louisiana.

Tension was growing in towns like Port Sulphur and Empire along Louisiana Highway 23, which runs south of New Orleans along the Mississippi River into prime oyster and shrimping waters.

Companies like Chevron and ConocoPhillips have facilities nearby, and some residents are hesitant to criticize BP or the federal government, knowing the oil industry is as much a staple here as fishing.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of blame going around here. People are just concerned about their livelihoods,” said Sullivan Vullo, who owns La Casa Cafe in Port Sulphur.

A federal class-action lawsuit was filed late Wednesday on behalf of two commercial shrimpers from Louisiana, Acy J. Cooper Jr. and Ronnie Louis Anderson.

The suit seeks at least $5 million in compensatory damages plus an unspecified amount of punitive damages against Transocean, BP, Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and Cameron International Corp.

In Buras, Louisiana, where Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, the owner of the Black Velvet Oyster Bar & Grill couldn’t keep his eyes off the television. News and weather shows were making projections that oil would soon inundate the coastal wetlands where his family has worked since the 1860s.

It was as though a hurricane was approaching, maybe worse.

“A hurricane is like closing your bank account for a few days, but this here has the capacity to destroy our bank accounts,” said Byron Marinovitch, 47.

“We’re really disgusted,” he added. “We don’t believe anything coming out of BP’s mouth.”

Signs of the 2005 hurricane are still apparent here: There are schools, homes, churches and restaurants operating out of trailers, and across from Marinovitch’s bar is a wood frame house abandoned since the storm.

A fleet of boats working under an oil industry consortium has been using booms to corral and then skim oil from the surface.

The Coast Guard abandoned a plan Wednesday to set fire to the leaking oil after sea conditions deteriorated. The attempt to burn some of the oil came after crews operating submersible robots failed to activate a shut-off device that would halt the flow of oil.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was briefed Thursday on the issue, said his spokesman, Capt. John Kirby. But Kirby said the Defense Department has received no request for help, nor is it doing any detailed planning for any mission on the oil spill.

Obama dispatched Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to help with the spill. The president said the White House would use “every single available resource” to respond.

Obama has directed officials to aggressively confront the spill, but the cost of the cleanup will fall on BP, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

I hope this doesn’t turn into an excuse not to do offshore drilling, accidents happen.

Hate to get all conspiratorial, but could slowplaying the cleanup efforts help those against offshore drilling? Seems once again, the government has dropped the ball. I mean I understand telling the oil companies they need to take care of thier own messes. But at the same time, when one of them clearly cannot tackle a problem, do you just turn a blind eye or do you help them so your nations coastline isn’t fucked.


Being from Louisiana, this situation effects me greatly. Yes this will be used as a reason to not drill.

The bigger story, as always is lately, is the media not challenging the government. When the storms hit, all you heard on the news was how the stupid, black hating W did nothing about the people in the gulf area. Where is the criticism of the current administration? When the earthquake hit Haiti, and the USA “had” to give support, relief took just as long or even longer, to reach those people. When questioned about the delay, (not accused, as was President Bush) the Obama administration began to talk about the logistics of an aid effort this size,…and how it takes time to get things rolling on something of this magnitude.

Bush–hates blacks and is incompetent
Obama–well, these things take time

Obama and his cronies waited until the very last possible moment to do anything about this situation because it would look better for them.

[quote]John S. wrote:
I hope this doesn’t turn into an excuse not to do offshore drilling, accidents happen.[/quote]
Well you obviously know how the political game is being played. Undoubtedly this will be used as an argument against drilling. Ofcourse these things shouldn’t happen and could cause a huge shitstorm for the environment (which will affect humans just as much as wildlife). Then again, the oil industry (operating in the Western world) is bound by the worlds most stringent rules when it comes to environmental concerns. British Petroleum is losing millions of dollars each day cleaning this mess up and will probably lose even more when they’ll get sued.

All in all this disaster, how unfortunate it may be, is not an argument against offshore drilling. But it does show that the oil we need is harder to get to.

There is a secret document that proves Obama had charges planted on the rig, so he could sway more people to back the cap and trade legislation, which will benefit private companies that he and other high up democrats hold stock in; buy more “green” products, manufactured by companies he and other high up democrats have stock in; and get a chance to put BP out of business which will force the US to get even more oil directly from the Arabs.

I saw this posted on Drudge and thought it was something taken out of context:

However, the video is not a 3 second clip and he clearly states that he is sending SWAT teams to the Gulf to secure oil rigs. I am very perplexed by who exactly he is sending and what he is sending them for. This is an accident right? Perhaps he misused the term “SWAT team” or meant it as a euphemism for a team of inspectors or environmental clean up people, but I found it strange either way.

[quote]LSUPOWERDC wrote:
There is a secret document that proves Obama had charges planted on the rig, so he could sway more people to back the cap and trade legislation, which will benefit private companies that he and other high up democrats hold stock in; buy more “green” products, manufactured by companies he and other high up democrats have stock in; and get a chance to put BP out of business which will force the US to get even more oil directly from the Arabs.[/quote]

Hahaha, are you being facetious?

Never thought of terrorists targetting oil platforms, but it isn’t a bad idea.

I’ve read that some concern was voiced over the competency of BP to clean up their mess. The question is there of how much money and effort BP is putting in to cleaning this up. i.e. If I spill a glass of juice, I can throw some paper towels on it and walk away, or I can go rent a carpet steamer and clean it up good and proper. If I was in somebody elses house, I would be tempted to throw some paper towels on it and gtfo.

I’m wondering what mandates/laws/policies are in place that say what must be done in these kinds of situations and how much can BP be held liable?