The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico happened over three years ago, but according to scientists, crude oil toxicity still continues to sicken a sentinel Gulf Coast fish species. ENN reports
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, teamed up with researchers from Louisiana and South Carolina to find that Gulf killifish embryos exposed to sediments from oiled locations in 2010 and 2011 show developmental abnormalities, including heart defects, delayed hatching and reduced hatching success.
The killifish is an environmental indicator species, or a “canary in the coal mine,” used to predict broader exposures and health risks. Indicator species are sensitive to disease outbreaks, pollution, species competition or climate change so biologists often study them in order to monitor the ecosystem. These fish are not fished commercially but they are nonmigratory and share similar habitats with other species like the speckled trout, flounder, blue crabs, shrimp, and oysters, and who may be at risk of similar effects.
The findings are part of an ongoing collaborative effort to track the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Gulf killifish populations in areas of Louisiana that were heavily affected.
“These effects are characteristic of crude oil toxicity,” said co-author Andrew Whitehead, an assistant professor of environmental toxicology at UC Davis. “It’s important that we observe it in the context of the Deepwater Horizon spill because it tells us it is far too early to say the effects of the oil spill are known and inconsequential. By definition, effects on reproduction and development – effects that could impact populations – can take time to emerge.”
Researchers collected Gulf killifish from an affected site at Isle Grande Terre, La., and monitored them for measures of exposure to crude oil. They also exposed killifish embryos in the lab to sediment collected from oiled sites at Isle Grande Terre within Barataria Bay in Louisiana.
“Our findings indicate that the developmental success of these fish in the field may be compromised,” said lead author Benjamin Dubansky, who recently earned his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.
Whitehead said the report’s findings may predict longer-term impacts to killifish populations. However, oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill showed up in patches, rather than coating the coastline. That means some killifish could have been hit hard by the spill while others were less impacted.
The research can be found in an advanced publication in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
- Health defects found in fish exposed to Deepwater Horizon oil spill (environmentalresearchweb.org)
- Defects Found In Fish Exposed To Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (albanytribune.com)
- Remember the BP Oil Spill? Malformed Fish Do (scientificamerican.com)
- Gulf oil a heartbreaker for bellwether fish (wdsu.com)
A court order, handed down by a judge in New Orleans, means BP will no longer be liable for a maximum of $21bn in fines at next week’s civil trial – after a judge ruled the oil company would not have to pay for 810,000 barrels of oil collected at the source of the broken well.
The oil company had been facing up to $21bn in fines in the civil case, based on the amount of oil that gushed into the Gulf following the fatal blowout of its well.
The federal government estimates that about 4.9m barrels of oils were released before BP engineers sealed off the well three months later.
The case was set to be the costliest to date for BP, which has already spent billions on cleanup costs, and settling thousands of claims arising from the 2010 disaster.
But the oil company got a break when the Justice Department agreed not to hold BP accountable for 800,000 barrels of oil which were captured at the site of the broken well.
District judge Carl Barbier, who is hearing the case in New Orleans, accepted the agreement on Tuesday night. “The ‘collected oil’ … never came into contact with any ambient sea water, and was not released to the environment in any way,” he said in the ruling.
The deal reduces BP’s potential exposure to the civil trial from $21bn to $17.6bn.
The federal government has said it will establish gross negligence on the part of BP in the 2010 blowout, which killed 11 men and fouled the Gulf of Mexico. That could treble BP’s fines under the Clean Water Act.
The oil company, in combative statements this week, accused the federal government of making excessive demands.
The company’s lawyers have told journalists they believe damages should be capped at a few billion dollars, and they are ready to take the risk of taking the federal government to court. BP is also disputing the federal government’s oil spill estimate, saying the figure is 20% too high.
With Tuesday’s court order, however, BP appears to have taken a first step towards reducing its potential liability in the case.
- Judge cuts potential fine against BP by $3.4B (bizjournals.com)
- U.S. judge accepts BP collected 810,000 barrels in spill (news.yahoo.com)
- Feds, BP agree oil captured not part of penalties (news.yahoo.com)
Obama Administration ‘thinks’ about endangered species – and then exploits their habitats! Have your say…
Barack Obama, who I like and respect, has his Administration agreeing that 75% of the sea – including key species’ habitats – should be opened to exploration. As Leda Huta points out, this is huge…. What do YOU think? Agree or disagree? Comment below , https://twitter.com/LearnFromNature or http://www.facebook.com/pages/LearnFromNature/122123191208795
From Leda Huta, Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition
President Obama has delivered his State of the Union address and reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to pursuing a transition to clean energy, a move that could slow climate change and mitigate the harm done to imperiled species by fossil fuel development.
However, he also made this pledge:
“I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.”-President Obama, 1/24/12.
Seventy five percent is a lot of ocean.We don’t know exactly what 75% he’s referring to but the Interior Department has just proposed a 5-Year Offshore Drilling Program that would open up new portions of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Polar Bear Seas–the Chukchi and the Beaufort–to new drilling.
The draft plan for where Big Oil may be allowed to drill in the next 5 years would put endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, bowhead whales, polar bearsand other imperiled species at risk. The BP spill demonstrated the perils of reckless drilling and the absence of a viable plan to deal with a spill. Unfortunately, the lessons of that spill have not resulted in enhanced protections.
Our recently released report, Fueling Extinction, highlighted the devastating impacts that fossil fuels are having on threatened and endangered wildlife, pushing species closer to the edge of extinction. This draft plan would make matters deeply worse.
An Arctic spill is a crisis that the U.S. Coast Guard has said we have no capacity to respond to. The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are icy, inhospitable waters with gale-force winds, 20 foot swells and ice floes dozens of feet high. A spill there would be disastrous for polar bears, bowhead whales, and other Arctic species.
New Gulf drilling must reflect lessons learned from the BP spill and be sited out of endangered species habitat. We saw all too clearly the impact of Big Oil’s recklessness on Gulf wildlife. Endangered and threatened species such as the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle suffered as a result of bad planning and absent regulation. We can’t allow that history to be repeated.
Thank you for your commitment to protecting America’s wildlife.
Say NO to New Arctic and Gulf Drilling in Endangered Species Habitat
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is accepting public comments on an outline for where Big Oil may be allowed to drill over the next 5 years. The current draft plan calls for expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and opens the door for unprecedented and risky drilling in the Arctic.
In the Arctic, Polar bears, bowhead whales, and other endangered and threatened species would be put at immediate risk by new drilling authorized by this 5 year plan. This plan would open up both of Alaska’s Polar Bear Seas–the Chukchi and the Beaufort–to oil development.
In the Gulf, endangered species such as the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle would face the threat of another spill while still recovering from the Gulf spill. Necessary new protections for endangered Gulf species have not been enacted and new drilling would put Guilf wildlife at risk.
Please take action today by sending your comment to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) calling for adequate protections for endangered and threatened wildlife prior to allowing any new oil development.
- Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign Launches New Website (prnewswire.com)
- Bad Planning for America’s Arctic Ocean (savetheepa.com)
- Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Named One of 10 U.S. Species Most Threatened by Fossil Fuel Development (shadowwolf32.wordpress.com)
- Plants, Animals Up For New Protections (myfoxny.com)
- Plants, Animals Up For New Protections (myfoxphoenix.com)
- Hundreds of plants, animals up for new protections (newsok.com)
- Sumatran Elephants Could Be Extinct Within 30 Years (treehugger.com)
- Endangered Sea Turtle Released After Getting Epically Lost (treehugger.com)
- Feds eye endangered listing for 374 freshwater species (summitcountyvoice.com)
- Lab-Grown Clones Could Save Species From Extinction (treehugger.com)
- Endangered Seals Being Killed In Hawaii (inquisitr.com)
- Can natural resources be on the endangered species list? (greenanswers.com)
- Endangered species? Not every bug needs saving (sfgate.com)
- The Texas Tribune: Dozens of Texas Species in Line to Be Studied as Endangered (nytimes.com)
- Stork recovery an Endangered Species Act success story (summitcountyvoice.com)
- Why does China cause so many problems with the endangered species? (greenanswers.com)
- Dozen charged with selling endangered species online (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- California’s Gray Wolf Has Federal Endangered Species Protection (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
Huffington Post News
Officials think between 8,400 to 13,800 gallons of oil leaked each day from Nov. 8 through Tuesday, Ibama said in a statement on its website. Chevron had said that only 16,800 to 27,300 gallons in total leaked into the ocean.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the leak, which has been almost entirely contained, but the Ibama statement said it was a result of drilling.
An official at Brazil’s Federal Police, which has opened an investigation into the spill, said Chevron “drilled about 500 meters (1,640 feet) farther than they were licensed to do.” The official, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name, said that information came from a person with knowledge of the drilling.
The leak occurred at a drilling site about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of Rio de Janeiro.
Rio state Environment Minister Carlos Minc said earlier he was sure the leak was larger than Chevron estimated and he called for more transparency from the company.
“We can’t trivialize this,” he told the Globo TV network. “It’s really serious and we don’t yet know all the consequences.”
Marine life in the area of the spill will be affected by the leak, Minc said, adding that whales are migrating from north to south through the spill area.
The oil slick, which was moving away from the coast, grew to 11 miles (18 kilometers), Ibama said. Most of the oil was concentrated around the drilling rig in a layer about 3 feet (1 meter) thick.
Chevron said “current estimates place the volume of the oil sheen on the ocean surface to be less than 65 barrels.”
The company said it has 18 ships working on a rotating basis to collect oil off the surface and monitor the slick.
The drilling contractor for the well is Transocean Ltd., the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that oil company BP PLC was leasing at the time of last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the largest in U.S. history and one that dwarfs the Brazilian leak. At its peak, BP’s Macondo well was spewing more 2 million gallons a day.
Chevron said cementing operations were taking place so the well off Brazil is plugged. ANP, Brazil’s national petroleum agency, said in a note on its website that “the first stage of cementing, to permanently abandon the well, was successfully completed.” The regulator said the success of permanently plugging the well would be known “in the coming days.”
ANP also said underwater footage showed that a “residual leakage flow” was continuing, but that “the oil slick continues moving away from the coast and is being dispersed, as desired.”
Fabio Scliar, head of the Federal Police’s environmental affairs division, which is investigating the case, said those responsible would be held accountable.
“There is no doubt that a crime occurred. The spill comes from the drilling activity. What interests me now is to find who is responsible,” Scliar was quoted as saying by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.
The oil is believed to be coming from seep lines in the seafloor near the well and not from the well itself. Natural seeps are common around the world – perhaps the most well known in the U.S. is the La Brea Tar Pits in the heart of Los Angeles – and are often used by oil companies during undersea exploration to determine where a good prospect for oil drilling may be.
Natural seeps are usually so small in volume they don’t cause a nuisance beyond producing the periodic tar ball that washes up on a beach.
But problems with drilling a well nearby can exacerbate the seeps and cause greater flow of oil, which can be hard to control, said George Hirasaki, a Rice University engineering professor who was involved in the Bay Marchand oil containment effort for Shell off Louisiana in the 1970s.
“Anytime there is movement of fluids, even if it didn’t go to the surface of the well, the internal flow could result in the fluid going somewhere else,” Hirasaki said. “It could move laterally at the same depth or increase the flow rate of natural seeps that are connecting to the surface.”
Investigators will want to look at whether the weight of the mud being used during the drilling and abandonment operations was sufficient to contain the pressure inside the well, and they will also want to see whether drilling too deep caused problems in a geopressure zone beneath the seafloor, experts said.
Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University environmental sciences professor, said that to truly control the leak could be difficult.
“If you have this stuff oozing up through the ground you don’t have a mechanism for control,” Overton said. “If something started that to leak, that would worry me a lot more than a leak around the well. You’d have to drill a relief well and intercept that ooze.”
People familiar with last year’s BP oil spill off Louisiana know about relief wells.
BP spent four months drilling a relief well that it used to pump cement under the area that was spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and sealed the leak permanently.
Experts said that while there are many physical differences between the BP spill and the Chevron spill, the main common thread is the slow flow of information and different explanations for what happened and the severity of what happened.
“There’s a pretty long track record of all the people involved in spills underestimating at least initially the size of the spills,” Overton said. “I would suspect they literally don’t know, so they are trying to figure out.”
The Chevron leak is smaller than those Brazil has seen in the past.
In 2000, crude spewed from a broken pipeline at the Reduc refinery in Rio de Janeiro’s scenic Guanabara Bay, spewing at least 344,400 gallons into the water. Just a few months later, more than 1 million gallons of crude burst from a pipeline state-controlled oil company Petrobras into a river in southern Brazil.
Brazil’s worst oil disaster was in 1975, when an oil tanker from Iraq dumped more than 8 million gallons of crude into the bay and caused Rio’s famous beaches to be closed for nearly three weeks.
Associated Press writer Bradley Brooks reported this story in Rio de Janeiro and Harry Weber reported from Atlanta, Georgia.
- Brazil: Chevron ‘was unprepared’ for oil spill (independent.co.uk)
- Brazil: Up to 2,600 barrels of oil leaked (seattlepi.com)
- Chevron Brazil oil spill may be bigger than thought (cbc.ca)
- Chevron Brazil oil spill may be bigger than thought (cbc.ca)
- You: Brazil government estimates leak at offshore Chevron drilling site dumped up to 2,600 barrels (washingtonpost.com)
- Chevron under fire over size of Brazil oil spill (alternet.org)
- Chevron hid scope of Brazil oil spill, group says (sfgate.com)
- Brazil Officials Criticize Chevron Over Oil Spill (nytimes.com)
- Amazon Defense Coalition: Chevron in Open Conflict With Brazil and Ecuador Over Worsening Oil Spills (prnewswire.com)
- Chevron’s Brazil Leak Is Bigger Than Estimated, ANP Says (businessweek.com)
The Big Fix raises concerns over Obama administration’s use of toxic chemical Corexit and BP’s leverage in the crisis. The Guardian reports
But then, the events of last year’s BP oil disaster have so far been largely revisited in books, not documentaries. Until now, when a newdocumentary about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has its premiere at the New Orleans film festival.
The Bix Fix, by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, re-opens some of the most persistent questions about last year’s oil spill. How BP was able to exert so much control over the crisis as it unfolded? What were the long-term health consequences of using a toxic chemical, Corexit, to break up the oil and drive it underwater?
Rebecca Tickell herself had a serious reaction to the chemical after being out on the open water – and as it turned out so did the doctor she consulted in an Alabama beach town. She still has health problems.
“The most shocking thing to me was the disregard with which the people of the Gulf region were dealt,” Tickell said.
“Specifically I think that there was sort of a turn-a-blind-eye attitude towards the spraying of dispersants to clean up the spill. I don’t think anyone wanted to look too deeply at the consequences.”
- Rachel Weisz’s ordinary cop goes to extraordinary lengths (sfgate.com)
- BP, Anadarko settle Gulf disaster claims (sfgate.com)
- BP bounces 5% after $4bn settlement relating to Gulf of Mexico spilll (guardian.co.uk)
- BP agrees $4bn settlement with Anadarko over Gulf of Mexico spill (telegraph.co.uk)
- BP Recovers $4 Billion From Anadarko for Gulf Spill (nytimes.com)
- BP in $4bn Gulf spill settlement (bbc.co.uk)
- BP, Anadarko settle Gulf disaster claims (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Louisiana: Worst Shrimp Season in “Over 50 years” (friendseat.com)
- BP shares up amid £2.5bn oil spill deal (independent.co.uk)