Yesterday during my daily sorta nature walk, I made the mistake of tuning into NPR. First thing I hear is the breaking news that the scientists they hired to estimate the amount of oil gushing from the BP rupture could easily be 14x the previous estimate, equal to the amount of the Exxon Valdez oil spill every four days.
It was like getting kicked in the stomach.
Prior estimates, based on how much oil was visible on the surface, started at 1000 barrels, then raised to 5000 barrels a week later. During that time BP didn’t release the video that was subsequently used to make the new estimate, about 70,000 barrels a day, give or take 20%.
Another factor that made the surface calculations wrong is that a lot of the oil is being dispersed underwater, invisible to overhead satellites. I’ve heard of one massive plume moving slightly above the ocean bottom. A few minutes ago I heard the Coast Guard commandant say the underwater dispersion is irregular, globs here and there. Whatever the actual dispersion pattern, the amounts are staggering.
Another unknown is just how toxic the hundreds of thousand of gallons of chemical disbursement being sprayed on the surface oil is to the marine food chain. Pending is a decision to use the same basic gunk on the oil spreading beneath the surface as well.
Meanwhile, Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon platform that blew up and is now sitting at the bottom of the ocean, convinced a judge in Huston to stay individual lawsuits against the company. Such consolidation requests are not uncommon when large amounts of individual plaintiffs are involved. What is unusual– I mean what really sucks– is Transocean’s citation of a 150 year old maritime law that would limit its liability to just under $27 million.
To add insult to injury, Transocean stands to make over a half billion dollars from the companies that insured the rig. Somebody should file a lien against that asap.
And not to be outdone, according to the lead story in today’s NY Times, the Obama Administration:
…has approved at least three huge lease sales since January 2009, 103 seismic blasting projects and 346 drilling plans. Agency records also show that permission for those projects and plans was granted without getting the permits required under federal law.
Reading that was like getting kicked in the balls.
At this rate, I’m gonna run out of anatomy.
UPDATE ONE: Re that decision to use underwater dispersants? Done:
by JASON DEAREN, HuffPo, 05/14/10 6:43 PM
NEW ORLEANS — Federal regulators have approved the use of a technique to fight the ballooning oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by shooting chemical dispersants 5,000 feet beneath the sea.
The chemicals break apart the oil and keep it from reaching the surface.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said Friday that three previous tests were done on the technique at the leak site. She says scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration got enough data to approve its use.
Landry says the “unprecedented” deep-sea injections have not yet been used, aside from the tests.
Louisiana Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine says federal regulators dismissed state worries about the chemicals by giving approval. Levine says there is virtually no science that supports the use of the chemicals.
The EPA did not immediately comment.
Outta sight, outta mind.