We’re keeping the pressure on BP to stop spilling more oil into the Gulf

Late last week, we won a big victory in federal court when a judge signed off on a plan that will require BP and its rig partner Transocean to monitor the Deepwater Horizon site and nearby to identify the source of fresh oil that continues to create a sheen in the Gulf of Mexico.

The order signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan last Friday approves plans by the oil giant and Transocean to conduct a close visual inspection with a robotically operated vehicle, or ROV, of the site where an explosion in April 2010 killed 11 workers and triggered the initial spill that dumped nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the waters off the Louisiana coast.  The device will allow engineers to get a better handle on whether the oil sheen that was confirmed this fall by the Coast Guard is coming from a so-called cofferdam that was installed to capture oil right after the explosion — which is what BP has sought to claim — but could also show whether the oil is seeping from cracks in the ocean floor, a worst-case scenario.

Magistrate Judge Shushan needed to approve the inspections because the site of the 2010 explosion is also a key piece of evidence in the U.S. government’s massive civil case against BP that is slated for next year, although negotiations aimed at a settlement are still ongoing. You can read the judge’s order here. The inspections were slated to begin this week.

This is a huge victory for environmentalists who’ve long argued that BP — and at times the federal government — have been trying to hide fresh leaks of oil at the Deepwater site, despite claims to the contrary. The leader in this effort has been an intrepid associate, the pilot Bonny Schumaker of the web site  On Wings of Care. It was Schumaker who continued to undertake surveillance flights over the Gulf to look for ongoing problems — at times when the oil company and the feds were not eager for citizens to investigate what was going on at or near the site.

In August 2011, Schumaker spotted a fresh sheen of oil in the Gulf, and this blog was the first to report on the apparent new spill, long before it was confirmed by other scientists and the mainstream media. This proved not to be an isolated incident. In October of this year, Schumaker and this website reported a new oil sheen, ultimately confirmed by the Coast Guard, and her flyovers continue to find evidence of leaking crude. Here is her latest report, filed just this Sunday:

Since our November 9th flyover of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead and our publishing of the large surface oil slick there, BP has announced plans to begin further investigation of the wreckage and seafloor in that area, beginning tomorrow, December 3. Since the weather was perfect today and seas calm, we made a quick flight to see how things look out there, now three weeks since our Nov 9th flyover.  We were surprised to find a new drilling platform sitting almost right over the wellhead, and a large drillship also in the vicinity. We were dismayed to find many large surface slicks in the area, as well as some new ones along the eastern coast of Louisiana south of Black Bay. And of course it’s unfortunately no surprise anymore to see the large, chronic Taylor Energy oil slick that has plagued the southern tip of Louisiana since 2004.

This is — and continues to be — an underreported lesson from the BP spill, but it is a crucially important one. The bias of both Big Oil and their allies in the government is to obfuscate or cover up.  That is why folks like Bonny Schumaker, myself, and several key associates have worked tirelessly since we first learned of the disaster to independently investigate the spill and its impacts on residents and on the marine environment. As a result, we’ve helped change the narrative and raise awareness that there’s two sides to the ongoing story of the Gulf, not just the propaganda that BP televises in its well-produced ads. Hopefully, this new, court-approved testing will get us even closer to the truth.

To check out the original of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan’s order for BP and Transocean inspections of the Deepwater Horizon site, please read: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/53251575_8060.pdf

Read my Aug. 17 , 2011 post that broke the story of the “new Macondo leak”: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/oil-rising-again-from-macondo-well-bp-hires-fleet-of-40-shrimp-boats-to-lay-boom-around-old-deepwater-horizon-site

To check out my post from last November about the 2011 leaks at the Macondo field, check out: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/breakthrough-in-the-macondo-mystery-bp-admits-to-new-activity-at-deepwater-horizon-site/

Here is our report from Oct. 3 of this year about another fresh oil sheen in the Gulf: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/breaking-news-new-oil-sheen-near-site-of-deepwater-horizon-disaster/

To read Bonny Schumaker’s report of her most recent flyover filed on Dec. 2, please go to: http://www.onwingsofcare.org/protection-a-preservation/gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-2010/gulf-2012/334-20121202-slicks-macondo-area.html

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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