This BP oil pollution isn’t from 2010. It’s from Tuesday.


The calendar just flipped over to 2014 — that means that it won’t be long until April, and the 4th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A lot has happened since then — Osama bin Laden has been killed, Occupy Wall Street came and then mostly disappeared, Mitt Romney re-emerged, ran for president, lost, and dropped off the radar screen. But some things have remained depressingly constant. Some 44 months after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, crude oil is still spoiling what had been finest white-sand beaches in this country.

The picture above was forwarded to me and others from a Florida state environmental official. The picture was taken this Tuesday morning — New Year’s Eve — and it was taken off the beaches of Escambia County in the Sunshine State. Some 42 pounds of tar balls were collected and tested, confirming that it came from the Macondo oil field, site of the BP spill.  In fact, there were so many tar balls from BP’s 2010 spill that a Coast Guard oil-spill response team was called in.

This is a routine occurrence, and the discovery not just of tar balls but massive tar mats — in one case about half the size of a football field — are more prevalent in the barrier islands off Louisiana, closer to where the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up. Remember, some of the oil washing ashore was recently found to contain flash-eating bacteria that could possibly infect beachgoers who come in contact.

The non-stop fouling of our beaches is an unpardonable sin, and one for which BP should be apologizing every single day. To the contrary, this hugely profitable oil company has been lashing out over the last few months, hurling allegations of fraud at residents and small business owners who dare to seek some economic justice. The allegations seem intended to distract people from an environmental crisis that is ongoing.

As noted in a recent piece by the Legal Examiner out of New Orleans:

It is important to note that these reports of daily oil discoveries come at a time when BP is attempting to renege on its oft-stated “Commitment to the Gulf.” The company is repudiating the Contract it made with area businesses and individuals that compensates them for economic losses associated with BP’s spill.

Now BP claims that it is the victim. You be the judge.

I find BP guilty — of incredible hubris. The good news is that its diversionary tactics aren’t working — not in the court of law, and not in the court of public opinion. The bad news is that none of this changes the basic fact that the Gulf Coast — not just beaches but priceless marshes and wetlands that have been home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna and protect our populated areas from tropical storms — is still under assault. That is where the conversation needs to stay focused: On the wrong-doer who created this never-ending situation in the first place, British Petroleum.

To read more about the Florida tar balls in the Legal Examiner, check out:

For more coverage of giant tar mats in Louisiana, please read:

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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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