I Wish I Were Far From the Madding Crowd

September 7, 2010

Aftermath of the Gulf oil spill

More from Yale Environment 360, but these have to do with the Gulf oil spill.

The Legacy of the Gulf Spill: What to Expect for the Future?

by John McQuaid

The Gulf of Mexico’s capacity to recover from previous environmental assaults — especially the 1979 Ixtoc explosion — provides encouragement about the prospects for its post-Deepwater future. But scientists remain worried about the BP spill’s long-term effects on the health of the Gulf and its sea life.

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: An Accident Waiting to Happen (May 10, 2010)

by John McQuaid

The oil slick spreading across the Gulf of Mexico has shattered the notion that offshore drilling had become safe. A close look at the accident shows that lax federal oversight, complacency by BP and the other companies involved, and the complexities of drilling a mile deep all combined to create the perfect environmental storm.

McQuaid notes:

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster is a classic “low probability, high impact event” — the kind we’ve seen more than our share of recently, including space shuttle disasters, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. And if there’s a single lesson from those disparate catastrophes, it’s that pre-disaster assumptions tend to be dramatically off-base, and the worst-case scenarios downplayed or ignored. The Gulf spill is no exception.

McQuaid addresses the issue of risk in

Andrew Hopkins, a sociology professor at the Australian National University and an expert on industrial accidents, wrote a book called Failure to Learn about a massive explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City in 2005 that killed 15 people. He says that disaster has several possible insights for the oil spill: one was that BP and other corporations sometimes marginalize their health, safety, and environmental departments. “The crucial voice for safety in Texas City was shielded from the site manager, and the very senior agency people in the BP corporate head office in London had no role in ensuring safety at the site level,” he said. “The organizational structures disempowered the voices for safety and I think you’ve got the same thing here” in the Gulf spill.

But the more profound problem is a failure to put risks in perspective. BP and other companies tend to measure safety and environmental compliance on a day-to-day, checklist basis, to the point of basing executive bonuses on those metrics. But even if worker accident rates fall to zero, that may reveal nothing about the risk of a major disaster. “These things we are talking about are risks that won’t show up this year, next year — it may be 10 years down the road before you see one of these big blowouts or refinery accidents,” Hopkins said. “This same thing happened in the global financial crisis. Bankers were paid big bonuses for risks taken this year or next year, but the real risks came home to roost years later.”

That assumption — that catastrophic risks were so unlikely they were unworthy of serious attention — appears to have driven a lot of the government decision-making on drilling as well. The Minerals Management Service, a division of the Interior Department, oversees drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. Since the 1980s, the MMS has routinely granted  a blanket exemption from doing a comprehensive environmental impact statement to individual drilling operations, according to Holly Doremus, a professor of environmental law at Berkeley. The Washington Post and the Associated Press reported last week that BP’s Deepwater Horizon lease received that exemption (called a “categorical exclusion”) last year. It was based on several analyses that downplayed the risks of a major oil spill. One, published in 2007, estimated the “most likely size” of an offshore spill at 4,600 barrels. NOAA’s current, conservative estimate of the Gulf spill put its total at more than 80,000 barrels, increasing at a rate of 5,000 per day.

Of course, “Energy companies have aggressively lobbied to avoid formally analyzing worst-case scenarios since the Carter administration first required them in instances where there was uncertainty about the risk of disaster….”

So, will we have learned?

Interviews

A Louisiana Bird Expert Assesses Damage from the Spill

The images of pelicans and other Gulf of Mexico seabirds drenched in oil have stirred sadness and outrage around the world. But, says conservationist Melanie Driscoll, the unseen effects are probably far greater, with some birds perishing out of sight, far from shore, and others facing spill-related declines in the fish on which they depend.

Advertisements

August 23, 2010

National Academies’ meeting on what caused the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill

A committee of the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council is conducting a technical analysis of the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  It held its first public meeting Aug. 12 and 13 to gather information on government oversight and regulation of deep water oil exploration and drilling.

That was the third meeting of the committee.  The fourth is being held today and tomorrow.  See the National Academies’ Project System for more info.

Background documents from the Aug. 12-13 meeting can be found at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/BlowoutPrevention/documents/index.htm.  They include PowerPoint presentations from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, American Petroleum Institute, Coast Guard, Marshall Islands, and American Bureau of Shipping.  Right now they’re available only in PowerPoint so you will need that or one that can open PPT docs.

Under Related links you will find a link to a 1990 National Research Council report on Alternatives for Inspecting Outer Continental Shelf Operations.

In addition, the summary of the Institute of Medicine’s June workshop on Assessing the Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on Human Health is now available at http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Assessing-the-Effects-of-the-Gulf-of-Mexico-Oil-Spill-on-Human-Health.aspx.

July 21, 2010

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).

June 27, 2010

More on the oil spill and the dispersants

Richard Denison of the Environmental Defense Fund has been blogging about the oil spill dispersants being used on the BP oil spill.

Most concerning is the fact that EPA data show dispersants plus oil are more toxic than either alone.

Meanwhile, the Society of Environmental Journalists Daily Glob blog reported on June 25 that “Spill-Related Measures Advance in Congress”.

NOAA

NOAA Response – Provides a wide variety of information about the Deepwater Horizon Incident, including trajectory maps and links to such sources as IncidentNews (http://www.incidentnews.gov/), which provides information from NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) about the BP oil spill and other incidents.

GeoPlatform.gov/gulfresponse (http://www.geoplatform.gov/gulfresponse/) is a new online tool that provides you with near-real time information about the response effort.  Developed by NOAA with the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Department of Interior, the site offers you a “one-stop shop” for spill response information.

The site integrates the latest data the federal responders have about the oil spill’s trajectory with fishery area closures, wildlife data and place-based Gulf Coast resources — such as pinpointed locations of oiled shoreline and current positions of deployed research ships — into one customizable interactive map.

Other mapping sites the Daily Glob links to include:

June 20, 2010

BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Haven’t posted in a while.  Guess I’ve been a little depressed about the BP oil spill in the Gulf.  Here are some links to information about it and health effects from the oil.

Unified Command for the BP Oil Spill

http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/site/2931/

The Daily Glob (Society of Environmental Journalists blog tracking Gulf Oil Spill News) – http://dailyglob.sej.org/

Includes a collection of news media sources, government sources, Congressional hearings, commercial sources, research and experts, mapping and infographics, and other sites (such as the Earth Portal Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill page).

Gulf Oil Spill Health Hazards

http://www.sciencecorps.org/crudeoilhazards.htm

National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

NRDC Senior Scientist Gina Solomon, MD, MPH has been blogging http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/gsolomon/ and testifying http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20100225/Solomon.Testimony.pdf about the health hazards in the Gulf. She has also made the two videos listed below. Dr.Solomon is also Director of the UCSF Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency Program, Associate Clinical Professor at UCSF, and Associate Director of the USCF Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit.

Proper safety gear for working with dispersants and the oil spill

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GMT5QRyjgM

In Venice, Louisiana, NRDC Senior Scientist Dr. Gina Solomon discusses health concerns associated with oil and dispersants and demonstrates safety gear.

Air Quality Monitoring Near the Gulf Spill

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uDbkf_d-RU

NRDC Scientist Gina Solomon discusses air quality issues related to the Gulf Spill.

Other occupational and environmental videos of possible interest at NRDCFlix – http://www.youtube.com/user/NRDCflix

NIOSH Oil Spill Response

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/oilspillresponse/

Blog at WordPress.com.