Ocean Currents » BP oil disaster http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:42:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Postcards from the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/15/postcards-from-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/15/postcards-from-the-gulf/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 16:24:13 +0000 Rachel Guillory http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10472

Today marks five years since the oil stopped pouring out of BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico. Even though the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began on April 20, 2010, it took 87 days for BP to cap the well and stop the flow of oil. In honor of the occasion, Ocean Conservancy interviewed Gulf residents about the disaster, its impacts, and what the Gulf means to them. We have been sharing their stories on Twitter and Facebook over the past 87 days.

Here is a collection of all 28 postcards. Click on the postcards to enlarge them. Be sure to check our past blogs for an in-depth look at some of their stories.

AlbertNaquin_Postcard AlexisBaldera_Postcard BernieBurkholder BethanyKraft_Postcard BeverlyMBurkholder_Postcard BobbyNguyen BonnySchumaker_Postcard CalvinLove_Postcard ColeKolasa FrankHernandez_Postcard GregSteyer JamesCowan JimFranks JJGrey LandryBernard LouisSkrmetta MarieGould MattSeese_Postcard PatsyParker_Postcard PaulDavidson RichieBlink RobertaAvila RobertCarney RoxanneOchoa Ryan Tammy_HerringtonPostcard TereseCollins TroyFrady_Postcard ]]>
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Postcards from Mississippi http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/14/postcards-from-mississippi/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/14/postcards-from-mississippi/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 18:07:07 +0000 Michelle Erenberg http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10460

In honor of the 5-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Ocean Conservancy interviewed residents about the spill, its impacts and what the Gulf means to them. Over the 87 days—the length of the spill itself—we are releasing “postcards from the Gulf” to share their stories. This blog is the last of a four-part series featuring some of the full-length interviews from our postcards. Be sure to follow Ocean Conservancy on Facebook and Twitter to see all of the postcards.

The people of Mississippi do not take their environment for granted. Like Captain Louis Skrmetta, whose grandfather founded Ship Island Excursions in 1926 to ferry passengers from the Gulfport Harbor to enjoy Mississippi’s uninhabited barrier islands. For more than a century, the Skrmettas have been working in the seafood, boat building and ferry service industries. Skrmetta and his family make their living off this unique attraction of the Gulf. Mississippi folks aren’t shy about speaking up for their community either. That’s what I find so incredible about Roberta Avila who has been a tireless advocate for more than 25 years and who continues to raise the volume of Biloxi’s voices so they will be heard by restoration decision-makers. These are their stories.

Roberta Avila
Executive Director of the Steps Coalition
Biloxi, MS

What have you learned from the BP oil disaster?

Since the oil disaster, Steps has worked with regional and local groups to ensure residents are informed about decisions that are being made about how to restore the Gulf Coast. There are barriers to participation particularly with the Vietnamese community, many of whom don’t speak English.

I’m still very worried about what we don’t know, like what the effect is of the oil and the dispersant, and when will we know that? It may be 10 years, or 15 years. What we do know is that the oil disaster is having an impact on the sea life and that’s very worrisome. There is a real need to have a better understanding about environmental science and about how everything in the environment is connected.
If we don’t understand how things are impacted we won’t understand what projects to do or why.

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?

We need to remain vigilant about how this recovery is going to move forward and making sure community members are at the table to talk about what they want to see in their community. Restoration really should be reflecting people’s values. People know what they want– they want a healthy sound so they can fish and clean water so they can swim. They want good seafood.

We need to make sure the funding is there to do the monitoring because we need the data to know how the Gulf is recovering and responding over the long term to the restoration choices we are making, so we are learning from that. We need to create opportunities for residents to be able to be trained and employed to do the work and help them get well-paying jobs restoring the Gulf.

Louis Skrmetta
Ship Island Excursions
Gulfport, MS

What do you love about the Gulf?

I started as a deckhand for my father in the ‘70s and now it’s been 40 years that I’ve been a licensed captain on a ferry boat. My grandfather was a Croatian immigrant that came to southern Mississippi in 1903. I run a business that’s been in my family for almost 85 years and we depend heavily on a clean environment.

What have you learned from the BP oil disaster?

We were having problems before the oil spill with overfishing and poor regulations. Then comes the oil spill and the heavy use of dispersants in the prime areas of these fishes’ prime spawning grounds. I have seen the mullet population around the Mississippi barrier islands literally disappear. In the old days, there used to be hundreds of thousands in the schools. Now when you see a school of mullet, it’s so rare. The same with the dolphins, whose main source of food is these mullet, and they were swimming right where the oil was and where they were spraying the dispersant.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this problem is not over. Yeah, the beaches are cleaner, the oil is out of sight, but we still have a problem of the remnants of oil right off the Mississippi barrier islands. Every time you have a storm or weather event, it’s lifted up and placed on the islands.

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?

We need to protect and restore the barrier islands, those high quality natural beaches, those wonderful marine forests, the incredible wildlife that depends and lives on those islands, the quality of life the islands provide to the local residents and the visitors, those wonderful sunsets and great water quality coupled with what was once one of the richest seafood producers, the Mississippi Sound. If we do, we could create jobs and sustain our economy and the restoration money could be part of that.

More blogs from this series:
Postcards from Alabama
Postcards from Louisiana
Postcards from Florida

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What does the BP Settlement Mean for the Gulf? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/13/what-does-the-bp-settlement-mean-for-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/13/what-does-the-bp-settlement-mean-for-the-gulf/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 17:24:56 +0000 Michelle Erenberg http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10446

Now that the fireworks have died down, we wanted to check back on the big announcement from BP earlier this month. BP, the Department of Justice and the five Gulf states announced they had reached a settlement for $18.7 billion to resolve outstanding fines and claims from the 2010 oil disaster. We’ve spent the week diving into the numbers and here’s a little more about what we know and what questions remain.

The agreement provides $8.1 billion for Natural Resource Damages, including $1 billion in Early Restoration previously committed by BP. Nearly 70 percent of the $1 billion for Early Restoration has already been spent, with another $134 million set to be spent this summer on 10 new projects. It is unclear at this point how the remaining $168 million Early Restoration funds will be allocated. However, in the coming months, we hope to see a draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) from the Trustees that could lay the path forward for those remaining funds and the $7.1 billion in payments to be made over the next 15 years. This is an important fund for the Gulf’s fish and wildlife beyond the shore, as it includes $1.24 billion for “open ocean” projects, as well as $350 million for “regionwide” projects. While the exact definition of the terms “open ocean” and “regionwide” remain unclear, Ocean Conservancy is encouraged by this news, as we have long advocated for a comprehensive, regionwide approach to restoration, including the offshore environment.

In our earlier blog, we hailed the $350 million to continue assessing the damage caused by the disaster, but it is unclear if this funding will be available for ongoing assessments, or if it is only available to reimburse outstanding assessment costs. Further information is also needed to understand how much funding could be reserved for future damages and how those funds will be allocated. Long-term research and monitoring are critical to understanding if and how the Gulf is recovering, and BP should bear the responsibility of this cost.

Over the next 15 years, BP will pay $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act penalties.

Of this $5.5 billion, 20 percent, or $1.1 billion, goes to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for responding to future oil spills. The other 80 percent, or $4.4 billion, will be allocated according to the RESTORE Act. $1.32 billion will be allocated to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to be used to restore and protect the natural resources of the Gulf. We are eager to find out more about how these funds will impact the RESTORE Council’s planning and project funding. This chart details the allocations of Clean Water Act fines through the RESTORE Act.

Adding to all of this the $2.544 billion directed to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 2013 and the $800 million directed to the RESTORE Act from the settlement with Transocean in 2013, these are significant resources to fund projects benefiting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast.

Before the settlement, our Gulf leaders faced challenges in planning for restoration, due to the uncertainty around how much money would ultimately be available and when. With those questions now answered, decision-makers will be able to move forward with recovery and restoration planning that takes more comprehensive approach and a long view of the Gulf’s resources.

How they set about that task will be critical. We will continue to encourage decision-makers to coordinate planning efforts across these funding mechanisms, create more transparency, and meaningfully engage the public. There is also an enormous opportunity here to appropriately leverage these funds so we get the most bang for these bucks. This is going to need to be a team effort, as Bethany wrote earlier this month, we all need to continue to work together to seize this opportunity.

For an in-depth analysis of the $18.7 billion BP settlement, download our fact sheet.

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Lengthy Gulf Restoration Plan Needs to Dive Deeper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/03/lengthy-gulf-restoration-plan-needs-to-dive-deeper/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/03/lengthy-gulf-restoration-plan-needs-to-dive-deeper/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 13:00:14 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7447

Photo: Blair Witherington

If you’re like me, the recent holiday season has erased some of your memory (I think it’s all the sweets), and you may be in need of a refresher on where we left off last year in the Gulf restoration process. Last month, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees released a long-awaited draft Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). This was exciting news for the Gulf of Mexico, because the PEIS is critical for laying the groundwork for a comprehensive, long-term and integrated restoration process in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

Ocean Conservancy’s experts have been going through the nearly 2,500-page document with a fine-tooth comb over the last several weeks, and we can now present you with our preliminary views. When the PEIS process started last summer, over 1,000 of our supporters sent messages to the trustees with specific recommendations on what should be included in this document to ensure the Gulf ecosystem is made whole.  Let’s see how well the trustees did:

Lots of fishing piers, but not enough fish

While the 44 projects included in this phase of restoration are a big step toward restoring the Gulf, only nine of those projects are truly ecosystem restoration projects. The other 35 are meant to compensate the public for the lost days at the beach, on a fishing pier, or out on a boat in 2010 when oil was still spewing into the Gulf. This means building new boat ramps, fishing piers, and beach boardwalks. The questions remains: Without restoring fish populations, what will we be fishing for on those new piers? In order to restore the public’s use of the Gulf, we must first restore the Gulf itself.

Need to dive deeper

We are also disappointed to see that the offshore environment, where the disaster began, is left out of the picture. The project types listed in this plan do not include restoration of key species and habitats, such as dolphins, seabirds, Sargassum and corals. As you know, dolphins in Barataria Bay are suffering from poor health; deep-water corals are showing signs of oil damage, and Sargassum mats – the floating seaweed that serves as a home for the Gulf’s tiniest creatures, including juvenile sea turtles – were burned during the oil cleanup process. Given this growing list of evidence against BP, we must encourage the trustees to hold them accountable for this damage and include these restoration strategies in this plan.

The release of the draft PEIS is a step in the right direction, and we must urge the trustees to make the necessary changes and additions in order for this to be a truly holistic, ecosystem-based restoration plan.

Ocean Conservancy’s goal is to send 1,500 public comments from Gulf state residents to the trustees before the comment period ends on February 19. If you live in the Gulf or know someone who does, please share this message  and help ensure the health of the Gulf ecosystem for generations to come.

For our full analysis of this big legal document, download our assessment.

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