UPDATED: In the tank? Feds scrub incident report about Gulf spill near BP rig — then bring it back


UPDATE: It’s baaaack!

Hours after this blog reported on the deletion of the federal incident report of a fresh oil sheen, the report was restored and put back on line. That may be because Coast Guard officials have now gone on record confirming the sheen, which they acknowledge is four miles long.

Here’s the report that appeared on NOLA.com:

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating an oily sheen spotted in the Gulf of Mexico last month near the site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill 40 miles south of the Mississippi River, a spokesman said Wednesday. Samples of the sheen taken near the site of the failed BP Macondo oil well have been sent to the service’s Marine Safety Lab in Groton, Conn., to determine whether the oil is from the BP spill, said Lt. Commander Michael Wolfe.

EARLIER POST: Getting rid of an oil slick is hard work. But apparently it’s a lot easier to clean up an incident report about an oil slick — especially when that spill is near the site of the worst offshore oil accident in American history. Just ask the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which used its magic to make information from last month about a mystery oil sheen suddenly disappear.

Early yesterday, this blog broke the news about the Sept. 17 incident report, which raised the possibility that fresh oil is still leaking from the Macondo oil field where the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe occurred in April 2011 — killing 11 workers and unleashing a spill that lasted for weeks and dumped 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s what the initial report from NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration said:

This hotline is being started for new reports of sheen of unknown origin in and near lease block Mississippi Canyon 252. This incident is likely related to reports in August 2011 (See incident #8345, Aug2011). Although the source of these sheens may be the wrecked BP Macondo Well, this relationship has not been established at this time. Activities include daily overflights sponsored by BP, with USCG or NOAA observers on board intermitently. BP is sending a vessel to the area with an ROV to investigate the potential source.

However, that report is no longer on the web site as of last night. Instead, this is what visitors see instead:

Incident #8510 does not exist, has been deleted, or you do not have permission to view it.

You can view a saved version of the original September incident report at this address.

On one level, this is simply stunning.  On the other hand, it’s in many ways typical of the way that the federal  government has acted since Day One of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and spill — much more inclined to take actions that benefit BP rather than the public and its right to know. From its stance on recovery workers wearing the right protective gear to the obstacles that government agencies have created for independent scientists, the federal agencies operating under the Obama administration have repeatedly acted with a pro-BP, pro-Big Oil slant. The disappearance of the incident report — after the new oil sheen has already been reported in the media — is the latest insult.

It also may be a sign that the new oil spill at the Macondo site is more serious than the feds want to let on. Since breaking the news yesterday about NOAA’s original incident report, I’ve been investigating tips that vessels loaded with absorbent booms have been observed recently leaving the Breton Sound marine terminal at Hopedale, and that numerous fishermen who work the waters around the Macondo field have reported fresh sightings of the oil sheen.

We’ll keep you posted at the site about everything that we find out with this new incident as soon as we find out about it. Unlike BP and the federal government, we strongly believe in the public’s right to information. 

To see a copy of the original incident report, check out: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/incident_report.tiff

To follow the orginal link, which now goes to the deletion of the report, check out: http://www.incidentnews.gov/incident/8510

Read my Sept. 3 blog post that broke the story of the new oil sheen at: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/breaking-news-new-oil-sheen-near-site-of-deepwater-horizon-disaster/

 © Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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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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