NOAA Comes Clean About Where (at Least Some of) the Oil Went


We recently looked askance at the NOAA announcement that scientists have discovered spans of dead coral “covered in a brown substance” near the BP spill epicenter. Oh, it was an accurate announcement (a refreshing change), but you just know that when the “oil is gone” folks are confessing, then what’s really happening in the Gulf must be really, really bad.

Well, the AP’s Cain Burdeau offers a bit of insight that appears to have eluded others: “For the government, the findings were a departure from earlier statements. Until now, federal teams have painted relatively rosy pictures about the spill’s effect on the sea and its ecosystem, saying they had not found any damage on the ocean floor.” And, of course, Burdeau reminds us of NOAA’s very public “Mission Accomplished” declaration back in August.

“What we have at this point is the smoking gun,” is how HuffPo quotes Charles Fisher, a biologist with Penn State University who led the expedition aboard the Ronald Brown, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel.

Look, we’re dealing with an agency that initially low-balled oil-flow rates while using unprecedented amounts of toxic dispersant in an attempt to hide the oil. That’s why the government withheld the sub-sea high-def video, which was the smoking gun during the “gusher phase” of this disaster. And in a way, they were successful, because we are never going to find all of BP’s oil in a body of water as vast as the Gulf of Mexico. In this latest finding, we have learned that researchers found the dead coral in an area measuring 130 feet by 50 feet, about 4,600 feet under the surface.

Predictably, we’ll now hear denials that the dead coral is in any way tied to the BP spill. Or we’ll hear that it could be “natural” mortality. Then, when the oil “fingerprint” matches BP’s Macondo well, we’ll be told it’s likely an isolated incident. Not to worry. But the lead researcher, Charles Fisher, is right – this amounts to a smoking gun. And while it was a NOAA research vessel that made the discovery, we’ll note that it was filled with too many independent scientists for the federal agency to spin its way out of trouble.

I’m betting we’ll see NOAA keeping those research voyages to itself in the future and it will hand-pick more BP-frendly researchers really soon.

Read Mr. Burdeau’s story here:

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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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