This is becoming a somewhat old — and tragic — story by now. Yet again, there’s proof that BP — and perhaps more importantly, the federal government — went to great lengths to keep the American people from seeing, let alone knowing about, the worst wildlife devastation from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The April 2010 blast killed 11 people and spewed nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico — that part was impossible to cover up. But as environmentalists — including this blog — have documented over the last 30 months, there was a determined impact to hide the impact of the spill on dolphins, endangered sea turtles, and other marine creatures.
The environmental group Greenpeace is raising new questions about why it took the federal government more than two years to release information about a dead sperm whale that was discovered during the BP oil spill. The 26-foot juvenile whale, an endangered species, was discovered by a NOAA research vessel about 77 miles from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Greenpeace officials learned of it in September, when the government finally responded to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Greenpeace in June 2010.
“The problem remains that we don’t know exactly what BP and the government scientists saw, what they documented, and how they kept their records,” said Greenpeace research director Kert Davies in a news release. “The systemic clamp down on information and consistent lack of transparency and images such as these continue to remind us to demand full accountability from the oil companies and the government, especially with the looming legal settlement between the company and the government.”
Reports by the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets in recent weeks say there are ongoing negotiations between BP and federal and state lawyers aimed at settling civil and criminal charges and government damage claims for between $15 billion and $20 billion.
“Clearly, the public hasn’t seen all the evidence,” Davies said. “These images of a dead whale in the Gulf of Mexico, if they had been released in June 2010, would have been front page news. It’s pretty upsetting to know that you and I are paying taxpayer money for federal officials to observe things that we still haven’t seen.”
One of the most disturbing — although not surprising — aspects of all of this is the extent to which NOAA, supposedly independently investigating the oil spill on behalf of the American people, instead was eager to block the flow of information. This was harmful to the public — and hugely beneficial to BP as it now works harder to clean up its image than to clean the Gulf of Mexico. Those on board the NOAA research vessel were allowed to report the death of the sperm whale but barred from releasing damaging photos, and key details were edited out of the news release. Although the dead whale was badly decomposed, the crew failed to conduct certain tests that might have established beyond a doubt that the oil spill was the cause.
This welcome revelation from Greenpeace is significant on several fronts. For one thing, it’s more fuel for the mounting pile of evidence that castastrophic damage to marine life from the oil spill was far worse than either BP or the federal government wished to acknowledge. That is a critical factor that the judge now looking at BP’s proposed $8.7 billion settlement with citizens and small business owners must take into consideration.
But there’s also this: We’ve been reporting for several weeks on this blog about the fresh oil sheen at the site of BP’s failed rig. Now, the oil giant is insisting that it’s located the source of the problem — a 40-foot containment dome — and that the necessary repairs have been made to prevent future leaks. The problem with BP and their federal enablers — including the U.S. Coast Guard — is that they’ve lost all credibility, as the new evidence in the sperm whale death reminds us. And this isn’t the first time since the spring of 2010 that oil has gushed force from the Macondo field. There needs to be ongoing, aggressive and independent monitoring of what’s really happening at the Deepwater Horizon site. It would need to be a body with the unsullied reputation of the National Academy of Sciences. Because God knows we can’t trust the usual suspects.
To read more about Greenpeace’s release of the dead sperm whale photo and other information, please read: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2012/10/us_kept_photos_of_dead_whale_u.html
To see BP’s version of what’s happening at the Deepwater Horizon site now, check out: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2012/10/plan_to_cap_and_plug_containme.html
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