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)
Scientists blame Central Great Plains drought on failure of Gulf jet stream but critics say study was too narrow. The Guardian reports
The summer of 2012 was the driest since record-keeping began more than a century ago, as well as one of the hottest, producing drought conditions across two-thirds of the continental United States.
Barack Obama and other prominent figures have repeatedly cited the drought as evidence of climate change. But the report released on Thursday by scientists at five different government agencies said that was not the case. The drought was “a sequence of unfortunate events” that occurred suddenly, the report said. The circumstances were so unusual the drought could never have been predicted.
“The Central Great Plains drought during May-August of 2012 resulted mostly from natural variations in weather,” the report said.
The scientists found moist air from the Gulf of Mexico did not stream northward as it does most years, bringing spring rain. The jet stream that ordinarily pushes up the moisture from the Gulf was stuck far to the north in Canada.
July and August failed to produce their usual thunderstorms and those that did occur brought little rainfall.
The deficits were extreme. Last year was the driest year since record-keeping began in 1895, the report said. Conditions were even hotter and drier than the “dust bowl” years of 1934 and 1935.
But the scientists were clear in the report: “Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains.”
The finding was immediately challenged by other scientists. The report looked at six states – Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa – but by last September the drought had spread across two-thirds of the continental United States, devastating crops from Texas to Georgia. Some experts predicted the economic losses would exceed those from hurricane Sandy.
Obama cited the drought, along with last year’s wildfires, record-breaking temperatures, and Sandy, as evidence of climate change. Campaign groups have also cited the drought to make the case for climate action.
The lead author of the report, Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Associated Press he had tried to create computer simulations of the the drought, factoring in climate change conditions. Hoerling undertook a similar exercise with the 2011 drought in Texas, finding that climate change had indeed been a factor.
He was unable to do so in this case, Hoerling said, arguing that it demonstrated the drought had been a one-off event.
“This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years,” Hoerling told the AP. “Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event.”
However, Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, who was also contacted by the Associated Press, said the study failed to take into account the lack of snowpack in the Rockies or how climate change may have played a role in keeping the jet stream away.
- Global warming didn’t cause drought (independent.ie)
- Texas Drought Not Due to Climate Change, Says NOAA Study (reason.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)
Nigerian coastal and fishing communities have been put on alert after Shell admitted to an oil spill that is likely to be the worst in the area for a decade. The Guardian reports | http://twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature.
The company said up to 40,000 barrels of crude oil was spilled on Wednesday while it was transferred from a floating oil platform to a tanker 75 miles off the coast of the Niger delta.
All production from the Bonga field, which produces around 200,000 barrels a day, was last night suspended. “Early indications show that less than 40,000 barrels of oil have leaked in total. Spill response procedures have been initiated and emergency control and spill risk procedures are up and running,” said Tony Okonedo, a Shell Nigeria spokesman.
Satellite pictures obtained by independent monitors Skytruth suggested that the spill was 70km-long and was spread over 923 square kilometers (356 sq miles).
But a leading Nigerian human rights group said Shell’s figures about the quantity of oil spilled or the clean-up could not be relied on. “Shell says 40,000 barrels were spilled and production was shut but we do not trust them because past incidents show that the company consistently under-reports the amounts and impacts of its carelessness,” said Nnimmo Bassey, head of Environmental Rights Action, based in Lagos.
“We are alerting fisher folks and coastal communities to be on the look out. It just adds to the list of Shell’s environmental atrocities in the Niger delta.”
The spill, one of the worst off the coast of Nigeria in 10 years, is particularly embarrassing for Shell, coming only four months after a major UN study said it could take Shell and other oil companies 30 years and $1bn to clean spills in Ogoniland, one small part of the oil-rich delta. The company also admitted responsibility in August for two major spills in the Bodo region of the delta that took place in 2008, but has yet to pay compensation.
Shell, which works in partnership with the Nigerian government in the delta, claims that 98% of all its oil spills are caused by vandalism, theft or sabotage by militants and only a minimal amount by deteriorating infrastructure. But this is disputed by communities.
Yesterday Shell said it had also closed a Gulf of Mexico deep drillingoperation after spilling 319 barrels of contaminated fluids.
- Nigeria, Ogoniland: communities demand oil pollution clean-up and compensation (washafrica.wordpress.com)
- Nigeria Oil Spill Raises Concerns About New Drilling Tech (wired.com)
- Shell Shuts Nigeria’s Bonga Field After Leak During Loading (businessweek.com)
- Shell must pay $1bn to deal with Niger Delta oil spills, Amnesty urges (guardian.co.uk)
- Shell must pay $1 bn for Niger Delta clean-up – Group (vanguardngr.com)
- What If BP Had Never Spilt Oil in the Gulf of Mexico? (sefrew.wordpress.com)
- Amnesty: Shell Must Clean Oil Spill Wrecking Lives (foxnews.com)
- Shell Nigeria Pressured to Clean Nigerian River Delta (ibtimes.com)
- Amnesty Calls On Shell to Start Clean-Up Fund for Nigeria Spills (ibtimes.com)
- Shell uses Internet to show Nigeria oil spill data (seattletimes.nwsource.com)