I Wish I Were Far From the Madding Crowd

July 29, 2010

Chemical persistence and “corn’s koala”

Filed under: Satire — Myles Tougeau @ 10:28 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

While tag surfing I came across “Chemicals Persist, Even in Nature” (Scientific Enquirer).

A routine study to determine the extent of man’s encroachment on the environment stumbled across a major finding late last week. Scientists sent out into the field to measure the size of the remaining tracts of nature realized, as they walked further and further from their cities, that common city chemicals may be ending up in some unexpected places.

“As I looked overhead, I realized that air was flowing into nature from the cities,” reported one scientist. “I was shocked when I realized that the pollution created in the cities might actually have been escaping into nature all this time.” (more)

Okay, so I was a little slow (it’s late) and didn’t really catch on until I read “New Human Is ‘Corn’s Koala,’ Says Monplanto” (LOL now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens in the future).

At a Friday morning press conference, biotech giant Monplanto announced that it had created a genetically modified human that derives all its necessary nutrients from corn.

“Just as the koala subsists entirely on a diet of eucalyptus, this new strain of human can live a full, healthy and happy existence simply by eating corn,” said Monplanto company representative Clyde Jackson. “No longer will we have to waste time wondering what to eat at every meal—the answer will always be the same: delicious, nutritious corn.”

Jackson said that Monplanto is merely freeing up time for busy Americans, who would rather be at the beach or playing video games than staring into the fridge with indecision.

“We have better things to do with our time than decide what’s for dinner,” he said. “Americans are all about being free, and this will provide freedom from food decisions.” <snip>

At the press conference, it was revealed that Monplanto’s corporate executives had popular food author Michael Pollan to thank for the idea of creating “corn’s koala.” The concept was first introduced in Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The author was reportedly “not pleased” with this attribution.

Nicely done! And I love the name!  (Cute picture, too. Ah, if life were only that simple.)

Oil, oil everywhere

Gulf oil spill

100 days of oil: Gulf life will never be the same (AP, July 28, 2010)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_gulf_oil_spill100_days

BP’s oil spill caused by fed’s “dangerous culture of permissiveness” (McClatchy, July 20, 2010)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/3572169

House Energy and Commerce committee questions current and former Department of the Interior secretaries about the Minerals Management Service.

Gulf focus shifts, but where is all the oil? (AFP, July 27, 2010) – http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100727/sc_afp/usoilpollutionenvironmentsurface

Some 1.8 million gallons of the controversial chemical Corexit were poured into the Gulf from a short time after the spill began until early July.  (For more on dispersants, see below.)

“Less oil on the surface does not mean that there isn’t oil beneath the surface however or that our beaches and marshes aren’t still at risk. We are extremely concerned about the ongoing short-term and long-term impacts to the Gulf eco-system,” said [NOAA Administrator Jane] Lubchenco.

Mother Jones magazine’s Blue Marble Environment site comments on the AFP story above:

Mainstream Media Helps BP Pretend There’s No Oil

http://motherjones.com/rights-stuff/2010/07/mainstream-media-helps-bp-pretend-theres-no-oil

Media Runs Defense for BP, Again

“Disasters are Just a Normal Part of Doing Business for These Oil Companies”

Cites a new National Wildlife Federation report on oil disasters, “Assault on America: A Decade of Petroleum Company Disaster, Pollution, and Profit”

Report: Oil Disasters Common in Last Decade (National Wildlife Federation press release)

Also at http://motherjones.com/files/NWF_OilSpillsExplosions_pages.pdf (though it wouldn’t load for me)

Dispersants

Is the EPA Playing Dumb on Dispersants? | Mother Jones (July 20, 2010)

An Environmental Protection Agency staff member is accusing his employer of being coy when it comes to dispersant use in the Gulf. Career whistleblower Hugh Kaufman says EPA officials know that the chemicals present a threat to public health and the Gulf ecosystem and should be banned; they just don’t want to say so.

EPA Whistleblower Accuses Agency of Covering Up Effects of Dispersant in BP Oil Spill Cleanup

“Rush transcript” of interview on DemocracyNow.org

With BP having poured nearly two million gallons of the dispersant known as Corexit into the Gulf of Mexico, many lawmakers and advocacy groups say the Obama administration is not being candid about the lethal effects of dispersants. We speak with Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response and a leading critic of the decision to use Corexit. [includes rush transcript]

BP Gulf Disaster Act Two: The Corexit Calamity (Triple Pundit)

http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/07/bp-gulf-disaster-act-two-the-corexit-calamity

Stone Hearth Newsletters Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill blog

Chinese Oil spill

First details on China oil spill’s cause emerge (AP, July 23, 2010) – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_china_pipeline_explosion

Michigan oil spill

Oil pipeline leak pollutes major Michigan river (AP, July 27, 2010) – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100727/ap_on_bi_ge/us_michigan_river_oil_spill

Yet Another Oil Disaster … in Michigan (Mother Jones)

Crews work to keep oil spill from Lake Michigan (July 29, 2010) – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100729/ap_on_bi_ge/us_michigan_river_oil_spill_24

New Gulf oil accident

Barge hits well near Gulf, sends oil, gas spewing (AP, July 27, 2010) – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100727/ap_on_re_us/us_oil_well_accident

Apparently it hit an abandoned wellhead.  (See my earlier blog post, “Anticipating health effects from the BP oil spill,” for information about abandoned wells.  Or look at a list of GAO reports on abandoned wells and other oil and gas management issues for the same.)

July 21, 2010

Chemicals and the Obesity Epidemic: The Link

From the Safer Chemicals, Health Families website

http://www.saferchemicals.org/resources/obesity.html

Includes link to April 2010 report from the Washington Toxics Coalition.

http://www.saferchemicals.org/PDF/resources/obesity_factsheet.pdf

Three months of oil in the Gulf (and counting)

The latest news is, of course, that they’ve capped the blowout.

And that other leak a few miles away?  Don’t worry.  It’s from a different well. (!!!) (And how many other wells are there? Click there or see below.)

Oilpacolypse (from the Toxic Soup Movie Blog)

Gulf of Mexico Oil Rigs: 1942-2005 from tsinn on Vimeo.

Shows spread of Gulf oil rigs from 1942 to 2005 (at ever increasing depths!).

Toxic Soup Movie Blog – http://toxicsoupmovie.com/blog/

Oil is not just an American problem

Official: ‘Severe threat’ as China oil spill grows

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_china_pipeline_explosion

The Society of Environmental Journalists’ Daily Glob blog

CNN oil spill coverage

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2010/gulf.coast.oil.spill/?hpt=T2

News Orleans Gulf Oil Disaster Blog

http://blogofneworleans.com/blog/category/news-politics/gulf-oil-disaster/

The Unseen Spill: The Human and Reproductive Health Catastrophe of Toxic “Hot Spots” in the Gulf Region (Truthout)

Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill Blog (Stone Hearth Newsletter)

Marine Expert: Clean-Up Efforts, Public Missing Full Impact of Gulf Oil Spill

Katy’s Exposure Blog

Where I found a link to the Skytruth Oil Spill Tracker (and lots of other good stuff).

July 9, 2010

Anticipating health effects from the BP oil spill

Assessing the Human Health Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: An Institute of Medicine Workshop

The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine held a workshop to examine a broad range of health issues resulting from the Gulf oil spill.

Home Activity page at http://www.iom.edu/Activities/PublicHealth/OilSpillHealth.aspx.

The workshop, “Assessing the Human Health Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill,” was held June 22 and 23 in New Orleans. During the first day’s sessions, speakers and panelists discussed the potential adverse health effects for humans stemming from the oil spill for various populations. The second day’s sessions explored current monitoring activities, the types of research methods and data sources currently available, and questions to consider when developing short- and long-term surveillance and monitoring systems.

Presentations covered the groups at risk of exposure and possible acute, chronic, and delayed health effects.

Official U.S. Government Web Site on the Spill Response

http://www.restorethegulf.gov/

This site is apparently replacing the Deepwater Horizon website.  It contains news and links to resources from many Federal agencies.  For example, the Small Business Administration has a Disaster Assistance site for providing loans to affected small businesses.

Today’s news (from the old website) includes news that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will devote $10 million to research the potential human health effects of the oil spill. The NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) will recruit clean-up workers and Gulf residents to collect biological samples, health histories, and information about the clean-up work they performed and the nature of their oil exposure.

White House site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/deepwater-bp-oil-spill

The White House blog provides a timeline of the government’s response to the spill at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/issues/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.

EPA testing of dispersant toxicity

On June 30 EPA posted information about the first round of toxicity testing at http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/dispersants-testing.html.  The testing was done using eight dispersants.  EPA also plans to test the toxicity of the dispersants mixed with crude oil.

Links to worker health and safety resources from OSHA and the CDC can be found on the EPA site.

Maps and data

The latest information about the oil spill’s trajectory, the position of NOAA’s research ships, spilled oil’s coastal location and the areas closed to shipping can be found at geoplatform.gov/gulfresponse/.

To access the data materials generated for and by the Deepwater Response Incident, you can go to data.gov/restorethegulf/.

Oil containment effort

McClatchy is reporting that the effort is facing two key moments, connecting a third ship to the oil containment system and replacement of the “top hat” – http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20100707/sc_mcclatchy/3559853

Oil drilling moratorium

Obama loses moratorium bid on offshore oil drilling

Court refuses stay in deepwater drilling case
Court rejects bid to restore drilling moratorium

Apparently the courts don’t believe that there’s justification for a moratorium.  This despite the fact that an Associated Press investigation found that federal regulators do not typically inspect plugging of these offshore wells or monitor for leaks afterward.  (See “Enviro groups stunned that govt ignoring 27K wells”)

Of 50,000 wells drilled over the past six decades in the Gulf, 23,500 have been permanently abandoned. Another 3,500 are classified by federal regulators as “temporarily abandoned,” but some have been left that way since the 1950s, without the full safeguards of permanent abandonment.

Abandoned offshore oil wells

The story reports that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in 1994 that leaks from abandoned offshore wells could cause “an environmental disaster.”  GAO recommended that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) set up an inspection system.  (Which MMS didn’t do. ) Although MMS did commission a 2001 study on such wells.  According to that study MMS officials were

“concerned that some abandoned oil wells in the Gulf may be leaking crude oil.” But nothing came of that warning.

The GAO report is “Offshore Oil and Gas Resources: Interior Can Improve Its Management of Lease Abandonment.”

RCED-94-82, May 11, 1994
Summary (HTML)   Full Report (PDF, 50 pages)     Recommendations (HTML)

From the summary at http://gao.gov/products/RCED-94-82

Among GAO’s findings:

  • MMS does not have an inspection strategy targeting its limited resources to ensure that wells are properly plugged and lease sites cleared
  • in March 1993, the active OCS leases in the Gulf of Mexico had estimated lease abandonment costs of about $4.4 billion, but were covered by bonds that totalled only $68 million

GAO’s recommendation (below) was closed, but not implemented.

Recommendation: In order to better protect the environment from the effects of OCS oil and gas lease abandonment and the federal government from incurring the costs of such abandonment, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, MMS, to require MMS to develop an inspection strategy for targeting its limited resources to ensure the proper plugging and abandonment of OCS wells and the clearance of lease sites.

Comments: After reviewing the results of the March 1996 study of techniques for removing offshore structures, MMS has decided that its inspection program is adequate. MMS does not intend to develop a different inspection strategy.

So not only is it an environmental disaster waiting to happen, MMS wasn’t even getting money from the oil companies that it was supposed to.

I’ve posted a list of other GAO reports on oil and gas management at https://amidthemaddingcrowd.wordpress.com/gao-reports-on-oil-and-gas-management/.

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