BP: There’s Oil in Pensacola Bay


If you want hard evidence that local and regional news organizations (this blog included, of course) are continuing to blow big holes in the “oil is gone” narrative, look no further than the ongoing media drama at the Pensacola News Journal, where reporters took the gloves off last week – and NOAA dove into the fray over the weekend.

PNJ reporter Kimberly Blair teed off Saturday, starting her story with: “Despite persistent denials from BP last week, thousands of pounds of weathered oil is being pulled from under the surface of Pensacola Bay every day … During more than a dozen interviews last week, BP officials and spokespeople for a number of government agencies working on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response denied knowledge of oil in the bay.”

We know Ms. Blair’s reporting is spot on because this blog broke the “oil in Pensacola Bay” story on Aug. 24 when our team pulled crabs traps from the bay and witnessed a 100 percent mortality rate. A deep-water sample was taken alongside the traps, and the sediment brought up by the bailer contained oil. See our breaking story here: http://oilspillaction.com/dead-crabs-in-pensacola

BP officials had repeatedly denied knowing about oil in Pensacola Bay. But, according to Blair: “Even as they spoke, however, Escambia County officials and local fishermen were reporting finding weathered oil, as they’ve been doing for weeks. BP’s own crews were hand-scooping it up, and a submerged-oil team from BP’s Deepwater Horizon Response Incident Command Post in Mobile was investigating.”

Blair finally got “confirmation” from Scott Piggott, who heads the Escambia and Santa Rosa cleanup operation for BP, who admitted that cleanup workers began noticing the submerged oil at Barrancas Beach in July. What? A BP cleanup chief admitting that they began noticing submerged oil in JULY!

By Sunday, you had to admire the NOAA response – not to the oil, but to the bad press. We learn that: “… the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard are leading the search [for the oil]. They’re using 75 vessels of opportunity in bays and inland waterways and up to three miles into the Gulf, from Louisiana to Apalachicola. Other teams are working in deeper depths farther out in the Gulf.”

Wow! Does this signal a new, more realistic NOAA approach? Well ….

Chief Petty Officer Mark Boivin told the PNJ: “We need anyone who thinks they’ve seen oil to report it … we want to investigate it and clean it up.” But both Mr. Boivin and Ruth Yender, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientific support coordinator, both told the paper that: “… they did not anticipate the searchers finding much oil. And if they do, it will be tested to make sure its fingerprint matches the BP oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, they said. Judy Silverstein, a Coast Guard spokeswoman at Incident Command in Mobile, said testing is necessary because people are taking advantage of the BP oil spill and dumping their oily bilges. And, she said, some of the oil could be from natural seepage into the Gulf.”

Right. “Thinks” they’ve seen oil. Oily bilges being dumped. Natural seepage. And meanwhile residents continue to find oil all over the Gulf, and NOAA and our Coast Guard cling to the BP line.

Stay tuned…and stay tuned to the PNJ: http://www.pnj.com/article/20100829/NEWS01/8290333/Oil-spill-BP-reverses-admits-there-s-oil-in-local-waters

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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