BP: “Never mind the tar mats and dead dolphins, the Gulf is healthy”


BP just keeps stepping in it — this time I mean almost literally. The British oil giant is desperately trying to get out front of the 5th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy with a series of exculpatory moves, includes a website that tries weakly to contradict the damning flood of scientific research about the ongoing environmental problems in the Gulf of Mexico. This week, BP took that a step farther, by issuing its own “investigation” of the Gulf’s rate of recovery from the worst offshore oil spill in American history. You could feed the entire nation with pies made by all the cherries that BP picked to avoid giving readers the real story on the Gulf environment.

But here’s why the BP spin machine is so laughable. The ink wasn’t even dry on the self-serving report when a rebuttal, of sorts, washed ashore:

On Monday, BP released a statement claiming the environment of the northern Gulf of Mexico had returned its “baseline condition” five years after its Deepwater Horizon disaster pumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf off Louisiana’s  coast.

But on Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard was supervising the ongoing removal of a large oil tar mat on East Grand Terre Island that has yielded more than 25,000 pounds of oil mixed with sand since late February, BP spokesman Jason Ryan confirmed.

BP has been working to clean the beach since Feb. 23, well before their statement was released. However, they didn’t notify the Coast Guard of the mess until March 13, said Seth Johnson, a spokesman for that agency.

Meanwhile, a few miles to the west, two dead adult bottlenose dolphins had washed up on Queen Bess Island, continuing what has been a large die-off of dolphins in Barataria Bay since the oil washed into that critical coastal estuary five years ago.

East Grand Terre, east of Grand Isle on the state’s southeast coast, was among the heavier hit coastal beaches by the BP oil, and it has been the site of ongoing cleanups over the past five years.

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry. As this revealing article from The Lens points out, and as regular readers of this blog know, the giant tar mat on Grand Terre Island was no isolated incident. To the contrary, tar balls and tar mats traced back to the BP spill continue to come ashore on a regular basis on Gulf beaches in four states — and the problem gets even worse after our periodic tropical storms. In fact, the entire BP report is riddled with half-truths and outright deception. The National Wildlife Federation has compiled some of the most egregious errors of omission and commission — here are a couple of examples:

The BP report says: “Researchers from the University of South Alabama and Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama took samples of reef fish from the Alabama and western Florida Panhandle coasts from January 2010 to June 2011. They found no significant evidence of diseased fish in those populations.”

What it leaves out: In the aftermath of the spill, a number of fish caught in the Gulf between eastern Louisiana and western Florida had unusual lesions or rotting fins. Lesions were most common in bottom-dwelling species, including red snapper, and were particularly common north of the wellhead. (Source: Transactions of the American Fisheries Society)


The BP report says: “A 2012 University of Florida study that measured the rate of marsh erosion in a limited geographic area in Louisiana showed that erosion rates returned to normal 18 months after the spill and that its impact was generally limited to the edge of the marshes.”

What it leaves out: In May 2013, three years after the spill, more than 80 miles of marsh shoreline in Louisiana remained visibly oiled. The long-term effects of the oiling of Gulf marshes are still unclear and may take decades to unfold. (Source: International Oil Spill Conference)

Read the entire piece — the NWF chronicles similar BP deceptions surrounding oil on beaches, bird reproduction, and disease and death among dolphins, sperm whales, and the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, among other species. Honestly, at this point you have to wonder why BP wastes its time — not to mention millions of dollars — producing these embarrassing reports that are contradicted by real-world events in a matter of hours. The only path that makes sense for the oil company, in the wake of the devastation it unleashed in 2010, is contrition — and paying what’s necessary to make things right. But that remains the road not taken.

To read more about our five-year effort to reveal the truth about the BP oil spill, check out my book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America: http://shop.benbellabooks.com/crude-justice

To read more about the recent environmental problems in the Gulf, check out: http://thelensnola.org/2015/03/18/bp-confirms-25000-pound-tar-mats-two-dead-dolphins-found-nearby/

Please take a look at the National Wildlife Federation’s list of 10 things that BP’s new report doesn’t tell you: https://ecowatch.com/2015/03/18/bp-new-report-doesnt-tell-you/

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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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