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Archive for the ‘Gulf Of Mexico’ Category

Yesterday the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against BP and several other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf, accusing them of disregarding safety regulations leading to the explosion, which led to the spill and caused the death of 11 workers.

The other companies are: Anadarko Exploration & Production LP; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; Transocean Holdings LLC; Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc.; Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and Transocean’s insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036. Haliburton was not named but could be added later. Haliburton was the cement contractor for the project and the maker of the valve that failed.

The lawsuit makes it possible for the federal government to seek billions of dollars in penalties for polluting the Gulf of Mexico, beaches and wetlands, and reimbursement for its cleanup costs.

More than 300 lawsuits filed previously by individuals and businesses, and now consolidated in the New Orleans federal court, include claims for financial losses and compensation for the families of 11 workers

The suit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

Under the Clean Water Act alone, BP faces fines of up to $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled. If BP were found to have committed gross negligence or willful misconduct, the fine could be up to $4,300 per barrel.

Based on the government’s estimate of 206 million gallons released by the well, BP could face civil fines of between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. BP disputes the estimate.

Just as the lawsuit is being filed comes the news that more of the newly released WikiLeaks cables show, among other things, that BP had a similar blowout following a gas leak in Azerbaijan just 18 months before the blowout in the Gulf Of Mexico.

The Guardian, one of five media outlets with early access to the trove of diplomatic communications being gradually released by WikiLeaks, released its report on the latest group of cables, one of which reveals that in 2008 BP suffered a blowout similar to the one that would later cause the Deepwater Horizon disaster:

On the Azerbaijan gas leak, a cable reports for the first time that BP suffered a blowout in September 2008, as it did in the Gulf with devastating consequences in April, as well as the gas leak that the firm acknowledged at the time.

“Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was ‘a lot of mud’ on the platform, which BP would analyze to help find the cause of the blowout and gas leak,” the cable said.

Written a few weeks after the incident, the cable said Bill Schrader, BP’s then head of Azerbaijan, admitted it was possible the company “would never know” the cause although it “is continuing to methodically investigate possible theories”.

According to another cable, in January 2009 BP thought that a “bad cement job” was to blame for the gas leak in Azerbaijan. More recently, BP’s former chief executive Tony Hayward also partly blamed a “bad cement job” by contractor Halliburton for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Guardian also reported that other leaked cables revealed:

  • Azerbaijan’s president accused BP of stealing $10 billion worth of oil from his country and using “mild blackmail” to secure rights to develop gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region.
  • American energy firm Chevron was talking to Iran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield, despite U.S. sanctions.

Coming on the heels of the release of the cables and the lawsuit is yet more bad news for BP:

BP Plc fell the most in almost four months in London trading after the Obama administration filed a suit saying the company and four others violated environmental laws in the largest U.S. oil spill.

The shares dropped as much as 3.2 percent, the most since Aug. 24, and were down 7.2 pence, or 1.5 percent to 469.35 pence as of 3:33 p.m. local time. BP has fallen 28 percent since the April 20 blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and caused the Macondo well to leak crude into the Gulf of Mexico until July.

I suppose that BP hopes there is some truth to the old expression “bad news comes in threes,” but something tells me three is only the beginning.

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Today’s New York Times is reporting that BP has, for the most part given Congress an ultimatum. It pretty much boils down to this: no payouts for oil spill damages unless you allow us to continue drilling, and risking more disasters in the future. Why? Because it will leave them on the brink of poverty. Seriously.

BP is warning Congress that if lawmakers pass legislation that bars the company from getting new offshore drilling permits, it may not have the money to pay for all the damages caused by its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company says a ban would also imperil the ambitious Gulf Coast restoration efforts that officials want the company to voluntarily support.

That’s interesting, considering they just spent $93 million on advertising to “inform” those “small people” whose livelihoods they have all but destroyed already on the Gulf coast how much they want “to make things right.”

That’s $93 million just since the disaster began in April.

“If we are unable to keep those fields going, that is going to have a substantial impact on our cash flow,” said David Nagel, BP’s executive vice president for BP America, in an interview. That, he added, “makes it harder for us to fund things, fund these programs.”

A “substantial impact on your cash flow” you say? GET IN LINE BUD! There’s been a bit of a “cash flow” problem going around in several states due to an oil gusher caused by….oh that’s right, BP! What you folks in the business world like to call “the cost of doing business” “flows” both ways.

A good example of the height of BP’s arrogant view of the cost of doing business:

BP is particularly concerned about a drilling overhaul bill passed by the House on July 30. The bill includes an amendment that would bar any company from receiving permits to drill on the Outer Continental Shelf if more than 10 fatalities had occurred at its offshore or onshore facilities. It would also bar permits if the company had been penalized with fines of $10 million or more under the Clean Air or Clean Water Acts within a seven-year period.

Yes, that’s correct. They object to restrictions on causing deaths to 10 or more people. Bad enough that Congress would not object to less than 10 deaths, but BP wants to keep drilling with unlimited risk of death, and quite possibly destroying what hasn’t already been destroyed in the Gulf Of Mexico, along with countless lives all along the Gulf coast.

This is the same type of sick logic running rampant in the Republican party. Which brings us back to Florida. We’re on the verge of another election, and there are some serious choices that we need to make unless we want more of the same.

The Republicans currently in control in Tallahassee sold us all out to big oil once already, and they haven’t changed their minds. They seem more determined than ever to bring drilling closer to Florida. They bailed on a recent special session to ban drilling, and just said no to the one they previously claimed to have planned in the fall to address the BP disaster response. Not. Interested.

Rick Scott? Drill!

Marco Rubio? Drill!

Charlie Crist? Depends on what day it is, but keep in mind: he hired a former lobbyist to go after the state’s “legal options” against BP. I’m guessing there’s a good chance we can add him to the Drill column.

Alex Sink? No drilling.

Kendrick Meek? No drilling.

Any questions?

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UPDATES BELOW

Another oil rig, the Vermilion 380, owned by Mariner Energy, has exploded in the Gulf Of Mexico, west of the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

According to CNN:

An oil rig has exploded 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana, with 12 people overboard and one missing, the Coast Guard said Thursday morning.

Rescue attempts are underway for at least 12 people, Coast Guard spokesman John Edwards told CNN. 13 people were on board the rig total, Edwards said, noting 12 have been accounted for, but one person was missing.

The accident took place 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana on the Vermilion Oil rig 380, which is owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy.

The Coast Guard has multiple helicopters, an airplane and several Coast Guard cutters en route. It’s unknown if there are any injuries.

Mariner Energy owns nearly 350 Federal offshore leases, 110 of which are already in development, according to their website, as seen here.

UPDATE I

The explosion comes on the SAME day that the U.S. drilling ban has been overturned AGAIN.

UPDATE II

The Coast Guard is saying that a mile-long oil sheen is spreading from the site off an offshore petroleum platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.

Also, from AP:

The Coast Guard says no one was killed in the explosion and fire, which was reported by a commercial helicopter flying over the site around 9 a.m. CDT. All 13 people aboard the rig were rescued as they floated in the nearby water in survival outfits called gumby suits.

The platform is in about 340 feet of water and about 100 miles south of Vermilion Bay on the central Louisiana coast. Its location is considered shallow water, much less than the approximately 5,000 feet where BP’s well spewed oil and gas for three months after an April rig explosion.

All 13 people aboard the rig were found floating in the water, sticking close together, Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said.

The platform is a fixed petroleum platform that was in production at the time of the fire, according to a homeland security operational update obtained by The Associated Press.

The update said the platform was producing about 58,800 gallons of oil and 900,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The platform can store 4,200 gallons of oil.

More here.

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Today House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Bart Stupak released findings on how much BP has spent on advertising since the oil disaster to Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) who prompted the probe.

Among the findings:

Between April 2010 and July 2010, BP spent more than $93 million on advertising. That equates to an average of $5 million a week.

That is triple the amount the company spent on advertising during the same time frame in 2009.

Castor’s office sent out the information in a news release:

Upon learning that BP has spent more than $93 million in advertising between April and July, Castor said: “BP’s extensive advertising campaign that is solely focused on polishing its corporate image in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon blowout disaster is making people angry. As small businesses, fishermen, and mom and pop motels, hotels and restaurants struggle to make ends meet, they are bombarded by BP’s corporate marketing largess day after day. BP should be doing more to address the damage to the Gulf Coast tourism industry, fishing industry, and for researchers and for the taxpayers.

“While BP’s advertising campaign ramped up, businesses and the Gulf communities struggled to deal with the costs of the disaster. While BP’s advertising campaign is being executed like clockwork, business and state claims have languished. While BP certainly has the right to advertise, its approach has been insensitive to the taxpayers and business owners harmed by the Deepwater Horizon blowout. BP should use a significant portion of its advertising dollars to ease the strain on Florida small businesses that rely on tourism. Some of the focus should be devoted to marketing and advertising to promote the beautiful, pristine beaches of Florida and give a boost to our struggling tourism economy.”

Castor also referred to Conde Nast, University of Central Florida, U.S. Travel Association and other economic impact studies that have shown the economic impact of the BP oil disaster to tourism and the state’s overall economy is projected to be in the billions of dollars.

The letter to Rep. Castor, below:

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For all of you GOP-Tea Baggers in Florida who love the Free-Market, and small government there’s good news about those BP claims:

Florida Realtors will divvy up $16 million to cover lost sales in the aftermath of the April 20th Deepwater Horizon rig blast and ensuing massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida’s sharing in about $60 million claims czar Ken Feinberg set aside for real estate agents and brokers.

So a big “WOOT WOOT!” for you! Free Market realtors win!

Oh, wait. Do some of you GOP-Tea Baggers own a home in Florida? Which may tank in value due to that little Free Market BP oil “mishap?” And the loss of tourism in the state? Sorry, you may just want to take off that party hat and put down the kazoo for a minute.

He’s (Feinberg) already given property owners the bad news that they’ll likely get nada from the $20 billion fund set up by BP to cover losses caused by the spill.

Really hope you love that home enough to spend the rest of your life in it while Florida’s economy tanks and others flee. Like, say realtors who took their claims and ran for greener, less oily pastures. Bummer. But hey, you win some you lose some right? But you just keep that chin up while you gaze at those pictures of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush and Little Jeb on your mantel and repeat this mantra: “Elections have consequences, elections have consequences, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” Feel better? There you go!

Getting back to those claims:

Each of the Gulf Coast states’ real estate associations will dole out the funds to realtors.

Florida Realtors, the state association representing realtors, hired Indiana-based claims adjustment firm NCA to handle the claims and administer the funds, according to press release issued by the association.

Feinberg, who took over BP’s botched claims system at 12:01 a.m this morning, has said that realtors were the loudest group making a pitch for how the oil disaster made an already sluggish real estate market even worse.

Bad news: Little guy homeowners (that would be you) have small voices.

Good news: Drill, baby, drill!

One more item, while we’re on the subject of claims. In the Free Market, it appears that size matters:

Ken Feinberg, the new claims czar appointed by BP and President Obama, said Tuesday that commercial fishermen and charter boat captains from Florida may not be eligible for a full six months of emergency payments for lost revenues caused by BP’s massive oil spill.

And there’s more:

Florida lawmakers also may be backing off Republican leaders’ promise earlier this summer to hold a special session in September to address economic problems in the Panhandle created by the spill.

After all, your beloved Republican leaders told you there was no need for a special session anyway. Pshaw!

Hotels owner, are you? Maybe a Restaurant?

…hotel operators and restaurant owners also want special treatment. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association brought high-powered trial lawyer Fred Levin to a meeting with Feinberg Tuesday afternoon to ask for a separate process to handle their claims. Feinberg said later that probably won’t happen.

As Feinberg prepares to take over BP’s claims process on Monday, the sense of urgency about how to help the Panhandle recover seems to be dissipating.

Feinberg has pledged emergency payments to cover six months of losses under his new, expedited system. Last week, he said he would begin making individual payments within 24 hours of receiving a claim. On Tuesday, he said it would take at least 48 hours for those payments to get approved.

But, wait! It’s safe to fish now, really. The government said so! They’ve even got people with expertise sniffing your seafood for you! No oil! Safe! (Well, except there’s no test for dispersant.)

In the face of continued complaints from mom-and-pop hoteliers, restaurant owners and fishermen that the stigma of the oil spill continues to affect them, Feinberg said, “What do you mean you can’t fish for six months? Your compatriots are fishing now. I’m reading it in the newspaper. So the new wrinkle … that I didn’t confront two weeks ago, or two months ago, is what is the impact of the spill as every day I read in the newspaper things are improving. Thank goodness.”

It’s all good! Suck it up!

There’s lots more, but you can read that later here. Right now you may want to just sit back a while and take it all in slowly. Just relax and breath in all that fresh Free Market air. (Actually don’t breathe in too deeply. Corexit and all, you know.) Just put your feet up and gaze up at those pictures on your mantel.

But hey, you know what? I’ll bet you could get a real bargain on a picture of Tony Hayward to put in between Dick and Dubya! That way you’ll always remember the price of that GOP, BP Free Market freedom!

Feel better now? Sure you do!

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But then did you really think it was “gone” in the first place?

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Far from being gone, the oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster appears to still be causing ecological damage in the Gulf of Mexico, according to new findings from University of South Florida scientists.

And scientists from the University of Georgia said the amount of oil that remains in the water could be 70 to 79 percent of the more than 4 million barrels of oil that escaped into the gulf.

….USF marine scientists conducting experiments in an area where they previously found clouds of oil have now discovered what appears to be oil in the sediment of a vital underwater canyon and evidence that the oil has become toxic to critical marine organisms, the college reported Tuesday.

….USF’s scientists also found that the oil droplets were toxic to some phytoplankton, microscopic plants that form the base of the gulf’s food chain, as well as some bacteria. The oil doesn’t accumulate within the plankton, but rather kills it.

….The discovery of oil droplets in DeSoto Canyon spells potential bad news for the areas of Florida’s Gulf Coast that escaped the tar balls and liquid oil that tainted the Panhandle, said USF oceanographer Robert Weisberg. That’s because right now cold water from the deeper part of the gulf is “upwelling” across the continental shelf and headed for coastal areas, Weisberg said.

You can read the full article here.

Meanwhile, most oil spill advisories have been lifted….

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We’ve heard that nearly three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher is gone. Sure. Of course, that means there’s still at least one-quarter left in the Gulf, and kind of like the old question “is the glass half empty, or is the glass half full?” how you feel about those amounts of oil depends which side you’re on. Regardless, we’re talking about the oil we can see.

Well, here’s a bit of what “one-quarter” oil looks like, just for starters, from the Associated Press:

Beachcombers on the Florida Panhandle have been turning up remnants of the Gulf oil spill, including oil-covered life jackets and large chunks of foam from the rig.

Hard hats, oil-caked plastic bottles, and unusual metal debris have also washed ashore.

Florida Emergency Response Team reports indicate that several of the items are confirmed to have come from the Deepwater Horizon rig which exploded off the Louisiana coast in April.

A spokeswoman with the Gulf Islands National Seashore said four hard hats were found on the beach last week, one marked with the word “Transocean,” which owned the oil platform.

The oil isn’t the only thing that’s “gone:”

….wildlife officials are rounding up more oiled birds than ever as fledgling birds get stuck in the residual goo and rescuers make initial visits to rookeries they had avoided disturbing during nesting season.

Before BP plugged the well with a temporary cap on July 15, an average of 37 oiled birds were being collected dead or alive each day. Since then, the figure has nearly doubled to 71 per day, according to a Times-Picayune review of daily wildlife rescue reports.

The figures for sea turtles have climbed even higher, with more oiled turtles recovered in the past 10 days than during the spill’s first three months.

Or will disappear, eventually:

While the increase in turtles remains a mystery, wildlife officials say there are several factors at play in the seemingly counterintuitive surge in the number of oiled birds recovered since the leak was stopped.

For starters, it took longer for the oil to reach nesting colonies in coastal marshes, creating a lag in the spill’s effect on sea birds, said Kyla Hastie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She said rescuers also had steered clear of some rookeries until recently.

“We’re just now getting into some of the really sensitive areas,” Hastie said. “If we had done so earlier, we could have done more harm than good.”

Fledgling birds that are just now leaving nesting colonies are particularly vulnerable to landing in oiled areas, said Charlie Hebert, a deputy wildlife branch director for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We’re seeing more juvenile birds getting oiled as they’re trying out their wings,” he said.

But hey, it’s just “one quarter.”

Feel better now?

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