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Tuesday, June 1

BP Gulf Disaster CYA

"BP's newly appointed Swedish chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, center, poses for photographs with their current chairman Peter Sutherland, left, and CEO Tony Hayward, in London, Thursday June 25, 2009. BP's two-year hunt to fill one of Britain's most prestigious corporate jobs ended today with the appointment of Carl-Henric Svanberg as chairman. Svanberg, who is currently chief executive of the Swedish telecoms company Ericsson, will take over from Peter Sutherland in January." (AP Text; Photo/Matt Dun )
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This post picks up where the first one I posted today left off. I'll begin with excerpts from a May 31 opinion piece for the Texas Civil Rights Review written by Greg Moses of Houston IndyMedia and New Orleans IndyMedia; Elizabeth Cook of New Orleans IndyMedia contributed to the piece:
If Americans want to visualize victory over the oil spill invasion that threatens our beloved Gulf of Mexico, then we should call for a federalized war of skimmers and booms.

We should not be timid about it. We should visualize a series of booms in concentric rings that contain the spill, with skimmers at work within each ring, sucking up the oil. Industry websites claim that extracted oil can then be mixed with chemicals and reused for fuel. ...
As I mentioned in the earlier post, a drawback to the booms is that they don't work in strong currents. So while the proposed idea can work in some areas of the spill, it can't work in all. To continue:
The effort might also be helped by supertankers “that come in empty, with the huge valves and huge pumps that they have to suck the oil off the surface of the sea so it stops drifting into the wetlands”, says former president of Shell Oil John Hofmeister in a recent interview with the BBC. ...
One of the weirdest stories I've come across since I started following the BP disaster is that the U.S. Department of State somehow got involved in passing judgment on submitted suggestions from experts from around the world on how to contain the spill and stop the leaks.

The submissions piled up at State. If I recall they were sitting on 25 submissions -- although don't quote me on that number. The point is that State doesn't have the capacity to make such determinations. So no wonder experts such as Hofmiester had to approach the news media if they wanted to get across a suggestion. A story I recounted in the earlier post suggests that many real authorities haven't been able to get through to officials with their suggestions.

Moving right along:
As part of this winnable war, dispersants must be stopped.

Our winning hope for this war is nicely exemplified by the Coast Guard Cutter Walnut, which just left Hawaii for her 6,000-mile journey to the Gulf.

“The Walnut is 225-feet long, has a crew of about 50 people, and boasts state-of-the-art communications equipment and oil skimming capabilities,” reports Minna Sugimoto for Hawaii News Now. “Designed after the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, the Walnut comes equipped with a boom and pump oil collection system.”

"The skimmer sucks the oil in and pumps it into a bladder," says Jeffrey Randall, U.S. Coast Guard commanding officer. "That bladder is then filled up, transferred to another vessel that takes it away."

“Coast Guard officials say the crew goes through annual spill response training, but this will be the first time it'll actually put oil in the equipment,” Sugimoto reports. ...
Huh. That's interesting. The report doesn't say why it took more than a month for the Walnut to be deployed.
As early as April 29 the Los Angeles Times was reporting the Navy’s mobilization of booms and skimmers and the “opening (of) two of its bases in Mississippi and Florida as staging areas.” WLOX- Biloxi reporter Steve Phillips filed an eyewitness account of the activity from the Gulfport Seabee base. ...
Yes but Florida and Mississipi haven't seen any oil yet. It's Louisiana, which is closest to the gusher, that's been directly in the line of fire for weeks.
Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy is commander of the US Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA) which includes the Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV). Within these commands we find initial offerings of equipment, expertise, and training that will be required to defend the Gulf of Mexico against the oil spill invasion.

"A team of NAVSEA professionals are working around the clock to protect the sensitive coast lined with oil booms and perform open-ocean skimming at the source,” says Vice Adm. McCoy at a web page posted by the Naval News Service (NNS).

“NAVSEA's Chief Engineer for Underwater Salvage (Capt. Patrick Keenan) has been an integral member of BP's Engineering Command Cell that has assembled the best and brightest minds from around the world to try to stop the leak," said Vice Adm. McCoy.

"With a single phone call from the U.S. Coast Guard, 66,000 feet of open ocean boom and nine self-contained skimming systems, and the professionals to install and operate them, were dispatched (representing the initial shipment). That's your Navy -- a 24-hour Navy, incredibly ready and trained to respond to a wide variety of national taskings," boasts Vice Adm. McCoy. ...
If you read the earlier post, I think you'll see why I prefer not to comment on the above verbiage, beyond noting it would be news to Louisiana officials that the 24-hour Navy has been working to stop the oil spill from reaching their shores.
While the Coast Guard and Navy probably do not have enough booms and skimmers on hand to supply the war for the salvation of the Gulf Coast, they do appear to have sufficient knowledge to gather and organize the inventories and people needed. Surely there are enough booms and skimmers in the world that can be air-transported quickly and organized effectively. ...
I agree, and they've had a month to acquire and organize those inventories and people, and to deploy them to protect Louisiana's barrier islands and coastline -- more than 100 miles of which have already been polluted by the oil.

I'll skip the next part of the report, which discusses accusations that the dispersant used by BP is toxic. A couple of the articles I link to in the earlier post address that issue, which BP is hotly contesting. The author argues that with enough booms and skimmers shouldn't be necessary to use dispersant, then he goes on to observe:
When on Sunday’s “State of the Nation” program, CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen to describe the military response to the Gulf oil spill, the answer she got was a textbook case of incoherence.

Within the space of 141 words the Chair of the Joint Chiefs zig-zagged between “a support role” that simply responded to BP requests on the one hand to “doing everything we can. . . with every capability that we have” on the other. His confusing ambivalence was perhaps best expressed in the sentence: “And as best I've been able to understand, the technical lead for this in our country really is the industry.”

While it may be true that the deep-water attempt to stop the oil spill belongs primarily to industry engineers (although, along with Dr. John, we may protest why this has to be the case) there is ample evidence that the military is perfectly qualified to take command of pollution control. ...
Now I'll turn to a May 23, 2010: report from CNN:
Venice, Louisiana (CNN) -- Frustrated Louisiana officials Sunday demanded the federal government approve their plans to dredge up walls of sand to protect delicate inland estuaries from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"Either the Coast Guard has to side with its American citizens and protect its communities, or it has to side with a major world corporation named BP and betray American citizens in that process," St. Bernard Parish ['parish' is Louisiana talk for 'district'] President Craig Taffaro told reporters.

With oil sloshing ashore along the state's barrier islands and seeping into marshes around the mouth of the Mississippi River, state and parish leaders want to use dredges to close channels between the Gulf and the coastal estuaries.

They said those plans have been held up by the Army Corps of Engineers and the agencies in charge of the spill response, including the Coast Guard and BP, the company responsible for the spill.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry, the federal on-scene coordinator for the response effort, told reporters the barrier island project was still under review. Environmental and wildlife officials "are weighing in on the impact to endangered and threatened species and other impacts this large-scale project could have," she said.

But Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser pointed to pictures of an oil-covered pelican nesting ground and asked reporters, "Is it affected now?"

Thousands of barrels of oil a day have been spewing into the Gulf since late April, when the BP-contracted drilling rig Deepwater Horizon blew up and sank about 45 miles off Louisiana. Beyond the state's barrier islands lie a filigree of marshlands, bayous and islands that are rich in wildlife and fisheries that represent the source of about a third of the U.S. seafood industry.

Tim Kerner, mayor of the town of Jean Lafitte, said the dredging plan is "the only plan that'll possibly work" to save those estuaries.

"It's the plan that will save the wildlife, save the marine life and also the way of life for the town of Jean Lafitte and all the coastal communities," Kerner said.

Nungesser, Taffaro and other representatives of the state's coastal parishes toured the threatened region with Gov. Bobby Jindal on Sunday.

Jindal said his state needs "a greater sense of urgency" from those in charge of the cleanup, or for them to delegate authority to regional officials. He said the state is already doing preparatory work for dredging and could begin operations immediately on receiving approval.

"Ten days later, you'll see land being built. You'll literally see sand being built along these critical passes," he said.

Mayors and parish presidents were critical of both the government and BP's handling of the cleanup, recounting stories of misdirected protective booms or skimmers that sat on trucks ashore. And a visibly angry Taffaro said the delays threatened his parish's ecosystem and the livelihoods of his people.

"I don't have a crystal ball," he said. "But if I were a betting man, I would be betting that the plan is to let us die, then come back and do $75 million worth of cleanup and close the book."

He said some officials had even suggested setting oil-soaked marshes ablaze, a step he called "not an option for us."

"That kills our hurricane protection. It wipes out our species, our ecosystem and everything we've been fighting to protect," he said.
For ongoing coverage of the disaster, see the CNN website. More than any other news media outlet, CNN has been on top of the story.

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