Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gulf Oil Disaster: a few items of interest

News coverage of the Gulf oil disaster continues unabated, as well it should - we must never become anesthetized to this environmental bombshell of an event. Because there are so many news and conservation outlets following this on a daily basis with much better skill and detail than I could provide, I have left the subject in their able hands.

But here are a couple of items I wanted to bring up today:
My good colleague, multimedia producer Liz Smith, brought this web site to my attention. Assembled by Andy Linter, it brings together several timely widgets and news feeds, some of which I have mentioned in past posts. Included are the live camera feed, the counter showing the number of gallons leaked to date, the spill zone map that can be transposed to your region or community to give you an idea as to the scope of the spill, and several news feeds from leading news outlets.

Visit the If It Was My Home website.

Lawsuit to Lift Deepwater Drilling Moratorium
On May 27th, a federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling was put in place, following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. Earlier this month, a group of companies that provide oil drilling services, including Hornbeck Offshore Services, filed a lawsuit against the government, declaring that the moratorium violated the Outer Continental Lands Act and would impose financial hardship on the plaintiff companies. With support from several conservation organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Secretary of the Interior and several related agencies intend to continue with the moratorium.

“The Secretary’s decision was a valid exercise of his discretion predicated on the need to ensure that no further drilling accidents occur pending review and implementation of safety protocols and procedures,” lawyers for the agencies said. “The short-term economic harm asserted by the plaintiffs fails to meet their burden of demonstrating irreparable harm.”

Here is the dilemma: when a society's economy is so entrenched in oil, that businesses will sue to maintain the status quo even in the face of one of the largest environmental disasters ever.

Read Businessweek article.

Petition to Prevent Drilling Without Environmental Review
And speaking of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the organization filed a legal petition with the Department of the Interior, requesting the elimination of the "categorical exclusion" which allows the infamous Minerals Management Service (MMS) to approve drilling plans without the usual environmental review as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

According to a CBD press release,
"BP [British Petroleum] received approval for its Deepwater Horizon operations under a NEPA categorical exclusion, which allows MMS to greenlight oil and gas exploration and development activities without companies needing to submit an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement, as typically required under NEPA."

"The petition also charges that MMS violated NEPA in its approval of Gulf oil and gas exploration activities. According to the center, the environmental assessment prepared by MMS for the 2007 lease spill — the one that parceled out the Deepwater Horizon well — concluded that the lease sale would have 'no significant environmental impacts.

Read article.

The Blame Game
While certainly BP and several federal agencies have to take responsibility for setting the stage for this now ongoing disaster, we ourselves are not free of blame, as a recent issue of TIME pointed out.

"And all of us bear responsibility too for depending on and demanding cheap oil underwritten by risky drilling while showing again and again at the ballot box that we wouldn't support a government that really regulated the industry. 'This failure of government is government acting the way the American people have said they want it to act,' says Sarah Elkind, a political historian at San Diego State University. 'We get what we deserve.' The question is whether we have the strength and smarts to recognize how Americans got to this oil-soaked moment and to force the changes needed to make sure it never happens again."

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