The state of our oceans, in a clamshell

Our oceans, long taken for granted, are being stressed by pollution, over-fishing and climate change. Plastic gyres, swirling pools of plastic refuse, occupy several spots in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The largest one, in the North Pacific, is estimated to exceed the size of Texas….These linked, but disparate problems — pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, jobs at risk — won’t be solved easily. That’s why several environmental and conservation groups working around the globe have formed the Global Partnership for Oceans. The groups hope that together they can work to save the marine environment before human pressures cause natural fisheries to collapse.

BP oil spill clean up by the numbers — post gusher

With the elections nearing, fall weather setting in and the holidays soon to follow, that BP oil spill horror is receding in the public’s rear view mirror.

But the U.S. government remains doggedly committed to the clean-up, according to Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft, who updated a handful of reporters today.

Here’s the scoop, by the numbers.

  • 11,200 people remain engaged in the oil spill response across the Gulf of Mexico. That’s down a lot compared to the 48,000 who responded at the peak of the disaster, but remains more than those who worked recovery at the peak of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

How to — and how not to — help dolphins during the oil spill

You’ve probably encountered those “Don’t Feed the Bears” signs in national parks. Well, it’s true of dolphins also.

NOAA has put out notice that the public should not feed, corral, swim or approach dolphins in the gulf, even if they appear distressed from possible exposure to the oil spill.

But residents concerned about suffering or stranded dolphins should call in about them on the federal government’s wildlife hotline at 866-557-1401.

While they wait for a response team, they can and should:

  • Stay with the animal until rescuers arrive, but use caution. Keep a safe distance from the head and tail.

Tar balls turning up in Lake Ponchartrain and Galveston

Tarballs and an oil sheen were spotted on Lake Pontchartrain and in the Rigolets on Monday, prompting crews to put 600 feet of hard and soft boom at a “choke point”, to stop more oil from getting into the lake, according to government reports. More than 20 vessels responded to the site, collecting more than 1,000 pounds of tar balls and waste, which will be tested to see if it comes from the leaking Deepwater Horizon/BP well. The clean up operation continues today.

‘Last Chance’: a good book for the cabin


Like so many books about climate change, Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth by Larry Schweiger brims with info you’d rather not contemplate, like how some scientists think the Arctic sea ice could all be gone by 2012 or how methane gas released from the warming tundra could bring more ecological change in the next decade than occurred in the last 1,000 years. This is the sort of nonfiction that can keep you up at night as easily as a Stephen King novel, except it is all disturbingly real as opposed to surreal.

Congress confronts oil executives over lack of oil spill plans

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) pounced on oil executives today with charges that all the big oil firms have nearly identical outdated emergency spill plans that reference “identical ineffective equipment.”

The plans, like the one used by BP for gulf drilling that references how to save walruses and lists a long-dead expert to call upon, reflect the industry’s inattention to the possibility of a major oil spill in the gulf or anyway.

Track the oil spill damage and response on a new federal map


As part of it’s continuing effort to be transparent about what’s happening in the gulf, the federal government today announced a new website where anyone can see a map of the gulf overlaid with the current location, size and shape of the oil spill. NOAA shepherded the website in an effort to provide a variety of information in “near real-time.”

The map, as depicted here, shows the area closed to fishing because of the oil slick demarcated by a red line. The bright yellow spot marks the Deepwater Horizon wellhead. Coastal regions are color-coded to show the level of oil exposure. Zoom in to see where the worst hit and so-far unhit beaches are. Different colors label these areas as having heavy, moderate, light or no oil contamination.

Report: Mississippi Delta economy worth more than BP’s value


A newly released study of the of the Mississippi River Delta as a capital asset places a net value of $330 billion to $1.3 trillion on the region’s natural system of goods and services. That means that even the low end of the Delta’s estimated value would exceed BP’s market capitalization (of $189 billion) before the oil disaster on April 20.

Robert Redford says the BP oil disaster shows need for clean energy

The Natural Resources Defense Council, and many other environmental groups, are campaigning with renewed vigor for a clean energy bill, in the wake of the ongoing BP oil disaster.

In this NRDC video, longtime conservationist Robert Redford reflects on the oil catastrophe, saying its time to recognize that self-interested oil companies will never want to give up risky oil drilling, if there’s profit to be made.

Apprehension, not celebration, greets this World Environment Day

Aurora, Colo., tornado (Photo: Brittany McKown)It’s World Environment Day, and all I can think about is how the Gulf oil disaster has been book-ended by two environmental commemorations. The BP oil well blew out two days before Earth Day in April, though it was barely covered in the news until a few days later when people realized that oil was leaking into the ocean unabated. (In the back of our minds, we tend to assume that someone has a plan for these contingencies. Surprise! No plan.)

Pelicans and other birds drenched with oil in offshore nesting areas

Oiled pelicans rescued June 3 (Photo: International Bird Rescue Research Center)

The heartbreaking photos and video, many released yesterday when it was discovered that a famous rookery on Grand Isle had been inundated with oil, leave no doubt that this latest human accident will suffocate life wherever it lands and beyond. It will asphyxiate birds with a coating of oil, and orphan offspring left behind in the nests.

NOAA prediction of active hurricane season portends inland oil damage

Hurricane Ike, 2008 (Photo: NOAA)Talk about insult after injury. This year, the U.S. can expect a more active hurricane season, in which drifting oil and highs winds could conspire to slap the Gulf of Mexico coast with black storm waves, smearing the spilled BP oil far inland and complicating hurricane clean ups.

It could “blanket all of south Louisiana, not only killing the marsh, but contaminating where we sit right now, the football field, the high school, so it wouldn’t just be a cleanup from water. … I don’t know if we’d ever clean it up,” Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser told CNN.

BP disaster: We all own it

BP President and Chairman Lamar McKay (Photo: CSPAN)BP officials are at their least appealing when pushing off responsibility for the oil spill onto the oil-consuming public. We caught a whiff of this attitude during their May testimony to Congress.

“Tragic and unforeseen as this event was, we must not lose sight of the reason that BP and other oil energy companies are operating offshore, including in the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf provides one in four barrels of oil produced in the U.S. – a resource our economy requires,’’ said BP President and Chairman Lamar McKay, testifying to to the Senate.

How the top kill operation works (if it works)

We’ve had to learn a lot while watching the excruciating efforts to cap the gushing BP oil well deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

The latest lesson on the chalk board is about deep sea pressures. The water pressure is so great at a mile below the surface that pumping material back into the ruptured oil pipe is an incredibly difficult feat. It calls for a special potion of drilling “mud” that can “lock up” against the force of the oil gushing out, and yet not freeze before doing its job or collapse at deep sea pressures and temperatures.

Coalition of environmental groups calls for a hold on arctic drilling

As the Obama Administration ponders whether the gulf oil disaster should dictate any changes in the plans for additional offshore oil drilling, a coalition of environment groups is saying no way, baby, no way to drilling in arctic seas. They’ve put together an ad campaign that will be running on cable news channels, like CNN and MSNBC, saying that arctic offshore oil drilling is a bad idea and asking the public to weigh in by calling President Obama if they agree.

Greenpeace finds use for spilled BP oil

Greenpeace raises a question about arctic drilling using spilled oil (Photo: Greenpeace)

Greenpeace raises a question about arctic drilling using spilled oil (Photo: Greenpeace)


Many environmental groups responded to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico by calling not just for the clean up, but also for the U.S. government to halt its new plans to allow offshore drilling in certain arctic regions.

The gulf calamity raised the spectre of what could be an even worse outcome in the pristine arctic where rescue crews and supplies could be thousands of miles away when/if a spill occurred.

The mysterious case of the errant tarballs

Government experts reported today that those tarballs found on beaches in the Florida Keys earlier this week are NOT from the BP Oil Spill. Coast Guard experts tested samples of the 20-odd tar balls found at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West and “determined that none of the collected samples are from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill,” according to a news release from the oil spill response team.

Page 1 of 212