Oil in Africa: a Special Report from the Boston Globe December 2005

It has been loosely estimated that oil spilled in the Niger delta each year is equal to the amount spilled in the gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon… well, as it turns out the BP/Oil industry catastrophe may be far worse than was estimated for that comparison. Still, the point remains that Industry impoverishes nations when it can, makes as few rich as possible, destroys the environment, the habitat, the homes of all who had lived there, fruitfully… and makes passing gestures toward stewardship only when threatened with steep financial penalties, but never does Industry actually repair, or replace, or in any manner acknowledge, what it destroys.


A simple briefing from today, about an “amoeba” of oil moving west – from Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft

From: Deepwater Horizon Response External Affairs
Sent: Friday, July 02, 2010 5:55 PM
Subject: Press Breifing by Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft on Current Weather, its
Effect on Oil Spill Response

DATE: July 02, 2010 16:47:50 CST

Press Breifing by Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft on Current Weather, its Effect on
Oil Spill Response

NEW ORLEANS — Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft briefed the media today on the
current weather and its effect on the oil spill response.

A downloadable audio recording of the briefing is available here
; a transcript

Moderator: Jim McPherson
July 2, 2010
12:00 p.m. CT

Operator: Good afternoon.  My name is (Wendy), and I will be your conference
operator today.  At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the
update on weather effects and current response activities conference call.

All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise.  After
the speakers’ remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session.  If you
would like to ask a question during this time, simply press star, then the
number one on your telephone keypad.  If you would like to withdraw your
question, press the pound key.

Thank you. Captain Jim McPherson, you may begin your conference.

Jim McPherson:  Good afternoon.  I’m Captain Jim McPherson with the unified
command.  In the interest of providing you the latest information on the oil
spill assessment, we’re calling this is a spot report, and we have Admiral
Zukunft here today from New Orleans.  The purpose is to give you an
assessment of what we believe is going on with the trajectories, our current
plans and our future plans.

Admiral Zukunft will be leaving in approximately 20 minutes for an oversight
to verify the written reports that he has, so we’ll do a – he’ll do a brief
statement, then we’ll do some Qs and As.  If you have any other questions
after that, the JIC, 985-902-5231, we’d like you to call on that if you have
any others.

We have invited the governor, Governor Jindal, and his staff to join the
admiral on a helicopter flight this afternoon, and we’re waiting back to
hear on their availability.  He will be leaving on an overflight immediately
after this.


Paul Zukunft: OK, good afternoon, everybody.  For those of you that have
been following this for some time, you’ve probably also been following the
weather.  And as Alex has now moved inland, we’re still seeing some of the
residual effects of that tropical storm, which has prevented us for the past
48 hours from doing any skimming or in-situ burning both near shore and
offshore due to weather conditions.

As a result of the waves that have washed ashore, it has displaced some of
the boom, and we’ve also had weather conditions that have made it unsafe to
fly.  In fact, over 50 percent of our overflights had to be canceled due to
safety reasons.

And of note is we’ve had two lightning strikes, one that hit 10 people,
another lightning strike that hit the rig, so we clearly take these weather
threats to heart when we push the safety envelope in conducting operations.

I’ve been watching the activity as this weather starts to subside.  And in
the Gulf of Mexico, if you’ve seen the footprint of this oil sheen that runs
as far east as Panama City and as far west as Fourchon, Louisiana.

The more concentrated oil is closer to the well site itself, but we now have
a northeast wind direction, and it’s going to gradually shift to the east
over the weekend.  And so that amoeba, if you will, that footprint is going
to slowly march to the east – I’m sorry, to the west.  And what that means
is that some of that oil is going to wash along Mississippi Sound.  And
where it first meets a permanent barrier, if you will, a wall, that’s the
delta, the Mississippi River Delta and then Chandeleur Sound.

I’m concerned, because as I look at the environmental sensitive areas across
the region, besides Barataria Bay, that Chandeleur Sound area is an equally
sensitive one, as well, and there will be oil impacting that area, in the
past probably 24 hours and perhaps in the next 24 hours to come.

So I have worked with our incident commander in Houma to make sure that we
are launching every resource available, because this is going to be a very
long and arduous clean-up operation in the days to come.

I’m especially concerned with some of the wildlife habitats there,
especially an island called Brush Island, which is a wild bird fowl rookery,
and there could be oil impacting that area, as well.  So it’s going to be a
long weekend from an oil spill response perspective.

And we expect that there’s going to continue to be intermittent periods of
rain and thunderstorms due to a trough system across the Gulf of Mexico, not
related to Tropical Storm Alex, but, again, when Admiral Allen first – when
we first started this, he quoted a phrase that Mother Nature has a vote in
this, as well.  And, unfortunately, Mother Nature has voted against us as
we’re staging up this response that has kept people in boats.

And the people doing this work, these are the people that make their
livelihoods in this area.  And, you know, we’re – our hearts are with them,
as well, and trying to get everything possible to move on this effort.

I will say that offshore the seas are now down to seven feet, and that’s out
at the well site, so those heavy oil skimmers, they had to move off the
site, as well.  They’re moving out there as I speak today to resume the
skimming operations out there.  And some of you may have followed the
supertanker, the A Whale, and that will be moving out, and then it has to
take on ballast, so that ship could sink to a point where those intake ports
are at the same level of the water and oil.

And they’ve been assigned a five-by-five-mile square area just to the north
of the well site, and they’ll be working that tomorrow.  We have Coast Guard
research and development and strike team personnel on there to assess the
effectiveness of the A Whale and the skimming, as well.

So we’re using every and all available assets, but just, you know, to
clarify, the A Whale is right now an assessment that we’re doing, but
certainly it brings a piece of technology that has never been used in U.S.
oil spill response.

I’ll leave that as a – you know, where we stand right now.  But, again, the
reason I wanted to make this call is to see firsthand what the potential
impacts are, especially to Lake Borgne.  And as some of you from the local
area know, as you – as water enters Lake Borgne, it then goes through an
estuary system, through the Rigolets, and then into Lake Pontchartrain.  And
for me, that is where I’m losing the most sleep right now, is if oil were to
enter into that system and ultimately into Lake Pontchartrain.

I’m not here to say that it’s there, but I’m going to look, and if I see
even sheen, I’m going to push to make sure that we’re moving every and all
available resources to respond to this particular area.

Now, as you know, we’ve got oil that’s covering coastlines.  We’ve got 450
miles of oil-impacted shoreline and ongoing activity in those locations, as
well.  But doing this in triage fashion right now, this is my most critical
patient right now, is the Chandeleur Sound area.

So I’ve made the invite to the governor or his staff to join me on this
flight so he can see firsthand and share with me what his concerns are, what
our response strategy is, so we can clearly be united, and it must be a
united response to handle what’s going to be a very long-term response.

With that, I’ll open it up to questions.

Operator: At this time, if you would like to ask a question, press star, one
on your telephone keypad.  Your first question comes from the line of
(Jessica Reznikalt).  (Jessica), your line is open.

Your next question comes from the line of (Allison Bennett).

(Allison Bennett):      Hi.  Thank you for taking my call.  What rig was hit
by lightning?  And was any damaged caused?  And where was the one strike of
lightning that hit 10 people?

Paul Zukunft: OK.  The Discoverer Enterprise – and that’s the collection
vessel that has the top hat – that was struck by lightning.  It did cause a
small fire that was extinguished.  It did cause the operation to shut down
for approximately 8 to 10 hours.  And they do have precautions in place, so
any time they see thunderstorms within five miles of the rig, they do have
to shut down that top hat collection, which means during those shutdown
periods, you know, oil continues to release.

The other strike occurred down in Venice, and it was eight guardsmen that
were struck my lightning.  This was over a month ago.  None of them were
seriously injured, but, again, this time of year, with the convection
currents – and that’s what caused a lot of our aircraft to be grounded
yesterday, as well, due to the activity out in the water.

(Allison Bennett): OK.  Thank you, guys.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of (Kate Spinner).

(Kate Spinner): Hi.  Thanks for taking my question.  I’m curious about how
much oil you were not able to collect because of the bad weather.  How much
were you able to collect before the bad weather set in and – I don’t know if
I’m asking the question right, but…

Paul Zukunft: No, no.  That’s a very good question.  And on – on most days,
the seas have to be about three feet or less in order for us to be able to
effectively skim.  And on an average day, we’re skimming about 12,000
barrels of oil per day.

And you need those same weather conditions to – to herd oil and then corral
it, if you can imagine corralling oil, and then setting fire to it.  This is
all done, you know, far offshore, and we have eight, and we’ll soon have 12
operations configured to do what’s called in-situ burning.  And we’ve had
days where we’ve been able to remove another 8,000 barrels of oil through
in-situ burns.

So the – the 12,000 or so barrels of oil that are – that are skimmed, that’s
oil and water, so it’s not pure oil that’s being removed, whereas the oil
that’s burned, that is pure oil that’s being removed.  So that’s – that
20,000 roughly total is what we’re not being able to take out of the Gulf of
Mexico due to the prevailing weather.

(Kate Spinner): Thanks.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of (Susan Dager).

(Susan Dager): Hi, Admiral, this is (Susan Dager).  I have three
clarifications.  When you were talking about the Discoverer Enterprise being
hit by lightning, was that a previous event or was that something that had
just happened during Alex?

Paul Zukunft: No, (Susan), that happened probably about three weeks ago.

(Susan Dager): OK, I remember that.  OK, the other thing is, when you’re
seeing – talking about 20,000 barrels of oil not being skimmed or burned
off, is that a day?

Paul Zukunft: That is a day.  And these are…

(Susan Dager): A day.  And so how many days would we be talking about?

Paul Zukunft: Oh, for the – for the last two days…

(Susan Dager): Last two days.

Paul Zukunft: And, actually, today we’re just starting to get those – you
know, the seas are still at about seven feet, so we’re looking at, you know,
between a 72- to 96-hour period where we’re not able to do skimming.

(Susan Dager): OK.

Paul Zukunft: And when you have sea states like that, as those waves come
ashore, you know, that boom is anchored, but it does cause the boom to
become displaced, as well.  So the weather hits us on several fronts, one,
in our ability – inability to recover and, two, it does break down that boom
and make it more permeable.

(Susan Dager): And then I guess the thing is, I’m not from New Orleans, but
I am familiar with Lake Pontchartrain. Why would it be so bad if oil reached
Lake Pontchartrain?

Paul Zukunft: Well, that’s just part of an inland ecosystem.

(Susan Dager): OK.

Paul Zukunft: And so we’re really trying to mitigate anything getting into
these – you know, these ecosystems that have not experienced any – any oil
impact, nor do we want them to.

(Susan Dager): And you think that the storm – there’s a chance that the
storm could have pushed it there, and you’re going to go check on that right
now to see if that happened?

Paul Zukunft: Well, we’ll certainly check.  Right now, there’s no
indication.  And we’re – you know, we do have a lot of technology at our –
at our disposal.  And even though we can’t fly airplanes, we have rather
sophisticated satellite technology, as well.

(Susan Dager): OK.

Paul Zukunft: But there’s – you know, when you have really light sheen, the
satellite can’t get a – can’t detect that.

(Susan Dager): OK.

Paul Zukunft:  And the only way to really ascertain whether there’s oil or
not is to fly over it.

Jim McPherson:  All right.  We have time for one last question, please.

Operator:  Your next question comes from the line of (Aaron Cooper).

(Aaron Cooper):  Hi, thank you for taking the call.  There’s been some
reporting about FEMA trailers being used to house workers in certain areas
about the trailers that had some toxic concerns in the past.  Can you tell
me if you are aware of any trailers that have – were used in the Katrina
response as FEMA trailers that are being used anywhere in this response for
anything?  And if not, can you give me any kind of guidance on how you
determine what is a safe trailer to use?

Paul Zukunft: I will say that there was no intentional – and we don’t know
of any FEMA trailers that have been hired by BP to shelter people.  And we
were re-running those numbers to make absolutely certain.  But right now,
there’s no indication that what had been FEMA trailers that may have been
purchased by an outside contractor were then inadvertently made available to
house people.

And we do know that, at this point, we don’t have people residing in FEMA
trailers, but certainly it was a concern, as that rumor surfaced, that we
ran that to ground immediately.

(Aaron Cooper): Are the – you say they’re not being used to house people.
Are they being used for anything else?

Paul Zukunft: Right now, I don’t know of any FEMA trailers that are being
used for storage or anything else.  You know, that’s not a resource, and
it’s probably one that perhaps maybe FEMA can answer to that, as well.  But
right now, no intentional effort to make those resources available.

(Aaron Cooper): Thank you.

Jim McPherson: OK.  Thank you for everyone’s questions.  I would just like
to make a couple of comments here.  First of all, we’d like to ask the
public to report any oil sightings to the phone number 866-448-5816, and for
questions from the media, to please call the Joint Information Center at

Male: That’s in New Orleans.

Jim McPherson: And that’s in New Orleans.  Thank you very much for your

Operator: This concludes today’s conference call.  You may now disconnect.


View this document online  
Joint Information Center
Unified Command for the BP Oil Spill | Deepwater Horizon Response


Well Casing Wrecked, Unified Command Has Known for Several Weeks

After a weekend of scant real news and only rumors of impending doom regarding the BP catastrophe on the Gulf coast, it was learned late yesterday, June 29, that one of those rumors, that of a damaged well casing below the seafloor, is true.

It has been a month since the so-called “top kill” operation failed, and since the first report that the well casing below the seafloor had been breached. Drilling mud apparently escaped from the pipe into the surrounding formation, through what BP booster Thad Allen characterized as a possible crack. Although Senator Bill Nelson of Florida also described this situation to Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC – the official story prevailed, courtesy of BP spokesmodel Toby Odone, who maintained 12 days ago that his company could offer no information. “We don’t know” anything about the condition of the underground portion of the well, Odone told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “We don’t know whether the casing inside the well is damaged”.

Today, however, we see in the Los Angeles Times, that the Department of Energy has known for a month that the well casing was wrecked, probably during the initial blowout and explosion – pieces of pipe were found side by side in the wreckage of the blowout preventer.


As it has developed throughout this long and tragic affair, real lives are cut short – human and wild – and the people at UniCom are revealed, again, as liars.

While this comes as no surprise, it does help solidify conclusions drawn from observation of a pattern.

We know that damage will be concealed, denied and that those who try to expose it will have their reputations ransacked in the public eye – think of what Rachel Carson faced from agri-business after publishing Silent Spring, or those who saw first hand the disease and mutations around Three Mile Island after that ‘accident.’ Think of the fate of most whistleblowers. Think of how ExxonMobil has all but skated from its responsibility in Prince William Sound while oil is still present, buried on the beaches twenty years later.

We know with certainty that Industry has only one thing on its agenda – maximizing profit.

And we also have those who make excuses for the State, for Industry – protecting the hand that feeds them. And UniCom demonstrates again, that it fully understands which side of its bread is buttered.  They could side with the people, they could side with wildlife, they could side with the victims, but they do not. They side, now, as ever, with the perpetrator.

What is needed, now and for the foreseeable future, is strong support for independent scientists and citizens to bring the true story forward, the story of the cost paid by the ecosystems of the Gulf coast, the sea, and its lives, plant and animal, human and wild.


BP Calls for Volunteers to Help with Sea Turtle Rescue

UPDATE: 1 July 2010 We’ve learned that the email detailed below emanates from the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, itself part of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, which, along with the Center for Biological Diversity has announced a lawsuit against BP and the Federal government. How this relates to the mission for which volunteers are being recruited is unclear.

Apparently Unified Command for the BP oil disaster (you know, BP plus the Feds) has decided that more experienced help would be nice with the rescue of sea turtles. The only thing that wouldn’t be nice would be to pay that help…

Here is an excerpt from an email currently circulating through the wildlife rehabilitation community…

     We have made significant progress w BP Unified Command to scale up sea turtle recovery efforts.  Monday I am flying from CA to FL to assist w expansion so boats leave daily from LA and FL, and hopefully soon we lead more wildlife rescue boats. I am a marine biologist/toxicologist with haz materials experience and oiled wildlife care experience. 
     If you or your colleagues have wildlife rehab/rescue/oiled care experience and can work a volunteer shift for 2 weeks or more, please forward resume and supporting info to me. 
    This week many NGO leaders met with DOI to do just this, get more NGO qualified personnel helping. Together, our combined efforts can start a change

Of course, during most oil spills, the wildlife response relies on volunteer help, as does most wildlife rehabilitation. The outpouring of concern, and the desire to help, is enormous and part of the legally mandated rehabilitation and restoration of natural resources must include the people who also are wounded by the disaster. 

But this is a much different kind of catastrophe than a typical spill, and BP has proven itself to be a much different kind of responsible party. 
Each day, while professionals wait, sidelined, for reasons not given, we are told how BP is “ramping up” the response and at the same time giving it every resource available. As if we are not intelligent enough to understand the conflict in those statements – much like we have been told that the amount gushing from the hole they dug under the sea is less than the amount being captured on the surface.

At this point it is impossible to deduce what is true and what is  false from what Unified Command  announces… as if another result might have been possible from a policy of opacity.


Why do we rehabilitate oiled wildlife?

Why do we rehabilitate oiled wildlife?

A very easy question, actually. For the same reason that we rehabilitate any orphaned or injured wild animals.

And what is that reason?  If you find someone in jeopardy you try to help.

If your best effort doesn’t help you try to discover why. You change your approach. You learn your lessons. You improve your result.

It is very simple really. What more needs to be said?

The cost of treating injured wild animals doesn’t come from some general fund set aside for issues related to wildlife, pre-established and limited.

No. It comes from the fund that is generated by those who agree that such treatment be available, and those people are few, and funds are scarce.

If it were not for all of those animals that will never be found, the thousands and thousands of dead, it would seem to be a rare moment of justice in a nation as built on wholesale destruction as is the United States, that the party who injures is the party who pays, as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 demands.

 Now,  should the party who injures be in any way construed to be the party who cares? Absolutely not.

Dear BP, the only thing you have to give is money. Otherwise, butt out, shut up, and wait for your trial.


Lies, obfuscation, and propaganda, or, It’s leaking however much we say it is…

     It’s been a pretty bad week on the Gulf coast, with no progress made on slowing, containing, or otherwise interfering with what is now being estimated as 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 gallons per day flowing from the blown out well. Yes, BP is capturing some oil, maybe as much as 20%. These numbers, however, are not exactly useful. So far the only reliable information coming from the Unified Incident Command (which amounts to a large part of the Federal government and BP) has been that information from the Unified Command is at best misinformed, more likely, propaganda. These official estimates of the flow of crude oil place the volume at a level that was intially reported by SkyTruth and Dr. Ian MacDonald of Florida State University on 27 April and eventually published in the NY Times on 22 May. Meanwhile, the CEO of BP Plc has been seen on media all over the world, denying science, blaming food poisoning as the cause for clean up workers sickened  on the job, and publicly complaining that this catastrophe has interferred with his personal plans.
     The latest attempt to capture oil – the so-called Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) – which of necessity increased the flow when engineers cut the crimped part of the original riser off, was immediately said to be capturing twice the amount that BP had previously maintained was the total flow, and plenty of oil still seen to be not captured at all. Apparently, you can say anything. And also apparently the oil will continue to flow, at some rate greater than 1,000,000 gallons a day until the relief wells have been drilled, with a completion date estimated by Unified Command to be August.  Of course, as former president and petroleum industry enthusiast, GW Bush, once ‘remarked’, Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.