Monday, November 29, 2010

US closes shrimping near oil spill site

US closes shrimping near oil spill site

November 25, 2010
US authorities have closed to shrimping a section of the Gulf of Mexico near the area of a massive oil spill this year as a precautionary measure after a commercial shrimper found tar balls in his net.
The National Oceanographic and Oceanic Administration said on Wednesday the area closed to royal red shrimping is 10,000 square kilometres of Gulf of Mexico federal waters off Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
"The precautionary measure was taken after a commercial shrimper, having hauled in his catch of the deep water shrimp, discovered tar balls in his net," the agency said in a statement.
The action marked the first closing after more than 99 per cent of Gulf waters had reopened to fishing, as the area recovered from the huge BP oil spill capped in July.
NOAA said it was taking the action "out of an abundance of caution" and due to the nature of this type of shrimp fishing.
"Fishing for royal red shrimp is conducted by pulling fishing nets across the bottom of the ocean floor. The tar balls found in the catch may have been entrained in the net as it was dragged along the seafloor," NOAA said.
"Other fishing at shallower depths in this area has not turned up any tar balls and is thus not impacted by this closure. The fisherman who reported this catch had trawled for brown shrimp in shallow waters in a different portion of the area to be closed earlier in the day without seeing tar balls."
Over 229,000 square kilometres were once closed to fishing due to concerns over the devastating spill, which continues to impact the Gulf's environment and economy.

Bon Secour Shrimpers Say Nets and Shrimp Covered With Oil, After Shrimping Trip Off Louisiana Coast

Bon Secour Shrimpers Say Nets and Shrimp Covered With Oil, After Shrimping Trip Off Louisiana Coast

 BON SECOUR, Ala.) Bon Secour shrimpers say their nets and catch were covered with oil from Gulf floor during a shrimping trip off the coast Louisiana Saturday. 

Debra Nelson says her husband and two sons headed offshore, about forty miles from where BP's oil rig exploded, to waters that were recently opened in hopes of catching royal red shrimp. When they pulled up the nets after a three-hour drag, they found an unusable catch coated in oil.

Nelson says she spent much of Saturday night and Sunday morning trying to reach officials who could help. The Coast Guard, Alabama Department of Environmental Management and a BP representative met with her Sunday in Bon Secour where the boat is based. Lt. Mike Patterson with Unified Area Command in New Orleans says samples of the shrimp and oil were collected for testing. But Nelson says no one has given her clear direction yet on how and when her boat will be decontaminated.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Prayer For the Gulf

The Prayer For the Gulf by the mother of Drew Landry was read at the Grand Isle "Rally For The Truth"
 by Drew.
It is a moving prayer full of hope for clean water in the future of our children.

The microphone I was using died during the rally and not one speech was recorded. The ONLY words recorded that day was Drew and "The Prayer For The Gulf". The battery waited until he said Amen to die!

After the rally Drew played at a local marina on Grand Isle for free, as he often does. He is one of many story tellers along the coast who will not let the truth be buried by BP's slick ads saying all's well, come on down! They need your help to carry out this work. Consider watching the video below and make donations to the organizations listed in the credits.

Thanks my friends!


Drew Landry


COREXIT FOUND at Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, LA. November 27

 BP and the Coast Guard claim no more dispersants are being used in the gulf.

Our friend and sister on the Gulf took these shots.
It's bad enough to lie, but so arrogantly is more that I can stand. (JLW)

"So today I went to the pow wow. It was great. The REALLY wierd thing was in the same place we usually have the pow wow BP had a center for their equipment. The super wierd thing was that ther was acres of natural non- toxic stuff rotting away, while there we 176 empty containers of COREXIT 9527A, with barge and boat dispensers right by them. Weird, huh? I so happened to have a camera, of course.. so here ya go, draw your own conclusions folks... btw, can you say SERENDIPITOUS! All things to the Father." (Cherri Foytlin)

Photos were taken November 27, at Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, LA around 3:00 in the afternoon.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gulf Shores to settle with BP for lost revenue

Gulf Shores to settle with BP for lost revenue

Published: Thursday, November 25, 2010, 8:00 AM
GULF SHORES, Alabama -- The Gulf Shores City Council has agreed to settle with BP PLC for slightly less revenue than what officials estimated was lost during the year of the record-setting oil spill.
Jason Dyken.jpgGulf Shores City Councilman Jason Dyken.
A resolution passed at a special emergency meeting this week allows for Mayor Robert Craft to “communicate” the city’s “willingness to settle all of the city’s losses for taxes, royalties, rents, fees or net-profit shares ... or any other source of revenue or returns on investments arising out of the Deepwater Horizon incident.”While city officials have said that BP still owes $2,005,393 in lost revenue this year, the council agreed to a $1,839,311 settlement.
Councilman Jason Dyken, who also chairs the finance committee, views the settlement as a turning point.
“We’ll put 2010 to bed,” Dyken said, “and it structures us for 2011 with a safety net, so that we’re able to maintain the obligations to our citizens as well as the ability to grow and develop new services for our citizens. We’re excited to be able to spend our time proactively looking to the future instead of looking to the past and bickering about whose assumptions are correct.”
It’s still unclear, however, when BP plans to make the final 2010 payment.
Though BP could not provide a date as for when the claim would be paid, company officials have acknowledged working with the city on future payments.
The difference of about $166,000 between what city officials had estimated was owed and the settlement amount was not likely to impact Gulf Shore’s finances, said Cindy King, the city’s finance director.
“In the overall scope of our budget it’s not going to cause us to have to cut because we’ve been very frugal on our expenses,” King said.
Neither King nor Dyken could say why the city agreed to a lesser payment.
Dyken called the original dollar figures “assumptions” the city tossed at BP for months after oil started gushing from the busted rig.
He said the settlement was “fair.”
The last check BP cut was at the end of September for $1.69 million, which at the time brought total payment to the city to roughly $3 million.
That helped the city maintain payroll and pay bills for the rest of the year, King said.

How payments will be made next year is part of ongoing negotiations between the city and BP, according to King.
Craft has suggested providing BP with a quarterly revenue report in 2011, in which case the company would make up the difference between what was projected and what was generated.
In neighboring Orange Beach, a city affected on a similar economic level by the oil spill, officials continue to negotiate with BP on lost revenue claims, according to Mayor Tony Kennon.
Kennon believes the payments next year will be as significant as those recouping this year’s losses.
“A 2011 financial backstop for my community is absolutely necessary to create stability in our business community and to relieve some stress,” Kennon said.

Kenneth Feinberg's plan to settle oil-spill claims met with opposition

BP, the government and an army of volunteers are fighting to contain and clean the millions of gallons of oil spewing from the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010; 7:16 PM
Kenneth R. Feinberg is in charge of handing out $20 billion of BP's money, but he's finding that it isn't easy.
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Tuesday is the day that Feinberg wants to end emergency payments by BP's Gulf Coast Claims Facility to individuals and businesses for damage inflicted by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. After Thanksgiving, Feinberg will start offering lump-sum payments to people ready to settle all present and future claims - giving up their rights to file lawsuits.
But not everyone is buying into his plan.
Last Friday, a senior Justice Department official sent a letter to Feinberg warning of "concerns" over the pace of the claims process, the "overbroad" release forms for settlements, and the need for "additional transparency." The letter said "the success of the GCCF must be judged by whether the people of the Gulf feel fairly treated."
Earlier this month, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R) called Feinberg's claims process "extortion," and outgoing Alabama Attorney General Troy King issued a "consumer alert" warning people that Feinberg "works for BP." Feinberg was named by President Obama, though BP is paying him and four other lawyers at his firm $850,000 a month to run the fund.
Plaintiffs attorneys are also wary.
"It seems silly at this point, when we don't know what the long-term environmental effects are going to be," said one lawyer who said he didn't want to comment publicly until he has seen details of Feinberg's offers. "Why are they essentially . . . coming just before Christmas and flashing some money in front of people's eyes and trying to get them to waive their rights? That's not the optimal situation."
As of Nov. 18, the BP claims fund made $1.88 billion of emergency payments to 86,728 individuals and 31,271 businesses. Feinberg and his team have rejected 56,197 claims. Feinberg received a total of 400,516 of damage claims, but only 8,055 of them were for final settlements.
As a result, Feinberg has agreed to make "interim" payments , which will be reviewed every three months instead of every six months. Now gulf coast residents and businesses face this dilemma: If they want to hang on to their rights to sue BP and other companies, they can keep getting payments from Feinberg's fund that will be reviewed, and possibly terminated. If they are ready to take lump sums for all present and future damages, they have to sign away their right to sue the London-based oil giant later.
"If I were a private lawyer, I would recommend that my clients take the money now," Feinberg said recently. He said "finality is a virtue." Moreover, with fisheries and coastlines reopening for business, in a year or two damages might appear smaller than they do today.
If the emergency payment program is any indication, coming up with final settlements won't be easy.
Feinberg has made a career out of running big funds, such as the one for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He has relied on legal techniques to calculate payments designed to shortcut lengthy litigation. The Exxon Valdez case is the poster child of what can happen otherwise: it dragged on for 20 years, a big settlement was slashed on appeal, final payments were modest and many plaintiffs died before receiving anything.
Although $20 billion might seem like enough to go around, Feinberg wants proof of damages, and that proof isn't clear-cut. A chiropractor says business is slow because there aren't as many people fishing. The Plaquemines Parish government is providing forms on which people write their names and a dollar figure with no backup documents; they declare that they deserve money "due to the hardship caused by the oil spill." Claims have also come from beer distributors and dentists.
Florida restaurant and lodging businesses say they suffered because tourists were frightened off by predictions - incorrect as it turned out - that oil would reach their shores. Feinberg has been battling plaintiffs' lawyers over the question of "proximity," meaning how close to soiled coastlines is close enough for payments.
Feinberg and his team - he has 3,000 people reviewing claims - have also unearthed 1,200 cases of alleged fraud. For a fee, a ring of more than a dozen boat owners and a tax preparer allegedly drew up and distributed fake documents to people who falsely claimed to be deckhands. One woman allegedly stole the identity of her dead sister so she could file a claim. Several individuals fabricated documents showing they owned gift shops that didn't exist. A person who was already in prison during the oil spill filed a claim for lost earnings.
Lawyer Mike Papantino, in a September interview, said that the escrow fund should have been bigger. But when asked whether he'd rather take $20 billion now versus litigating for a decade for $60 billion, he said he would rather take the money now.
"I want things to recover here. I'd love to see it work for $20 billion," he said.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Solar answers to the extraction based energy questions

There are answers.

It will be a long journey, but if America doesn't embrace alternative energy resources, we will be in the new dark age searching for that last lump of coal.

Even Santa Clause knows coal is for bad boys and girls!
Ronald Ⓥ Blom Have a look in one off my motivation maps.There are several wind videos from Belgium Denmark Holland and especially from Germany in my video section. Have a look there is still some hope. German Eifel good feeling windmills, There are windmills everywhere in Germany and they give a positive feeling, and 1 on every 5 ho...uses has already a total sunroof. They are getting to 30% real clean wind and solar this year. They created more than 300.000 new long time green jobs in just two years.!/video/video.php?v=117999451584405

Take a look at these. In Belgium and many other places in Europe, this is typical and affordable.!/album.php?aid=32636&id=100001230530710

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

8 shrimpers fined for trawling in areas closed after Gulf oil spill

Federal agents have fined eight shrimp trawlers for allegedly trawling this summer in areas of the Gulf of Mexico closed because of the BP oil spill.
Photo by JLW
The Development Driller III drilled the relief well and pumped the cement to seal BP's Macondo well, the source of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill. The federal government set up a security zone around the wreckage site of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The zone extends 750 feet in all directions from the rig and its debris field. 
Photo by JLW
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that the eight shrimp trawlers were forced to dump about 107,500 pounds of shrimp back into the Gulf to prevent potentially tainted seafood from reaching the market. They also were issued fines ranging from $15,000 to $50,000.
The violations occurred during the summer, NOAA said.
"Throughout the oil spill event this summer, stringent enforcement of the closed areas was essential to ensuring both seafood safety and consumer confidence in Gulf seafood," Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service, said in a news release. "NOAA remains determined to protect the fishermen who follow the rules and the American public who eat the seafood they catch."
The ships' owners and operators can pay the fines or they can request a judicial hearing within 30 days.
The lone fisher to request a hearing, Qui Van Tran, of Houston, who owns and operates the fishing vessel Capt T, received a $15,000 fine for taking 5,639 pounds of shrimp from a closed area on June 22. His hearing is Jan. 18.
Ted Tan Nguyen, of Metairie, who ran the vessel Timmy Boy, was fined $18,000 for taking 2,000 pounds of shrimp from a closed zoned on June 23 and for two other violations involving bycatch reduction devices, NOAA said. He is the only person to have already paid the fines leveled against him.
The other six parties' cases still remain open.
The owner Danny Boy Inc. and operator Mai Van Lang, of Kaplan, were issued $15,000 in fines for taking 30,000 pounds of shrimp from a closed area on July 2.
The owner Five Lopez Bros, Inc. and operator Benjamin Lopez, of Brownsville, Texas, were issued $15,000 in for taking about 12,000 pounds of shrimp on June 2.
The owner Russell Trawling Company, Inc., of Brownsville, and Arturo Gonzalez, of Rio Hondo, Texas, were issued a $15,000 fine for a June 20 violation that involved catching 20,000 pounds of shrimp from a closed zone.
Owner Tuyen T. Tran, of Pass Christian, Miss., and Ngoan Van Tran, of Marrero, were fined $50,000 in part for allegedly catching 30,000 pounds of shrimp in a closed area a second time on June 21 after previously being warned by state officials. Part of the fine also stems from four alleged violations regarding turtle excluder devices whose net openings were allegedly too small to allow larger, mature turtles to escape.
Owner Nga Pham and operator Hoang Pham, both of Houston, were issued a $15,000 fine for catching 3,000 pounds on July 19 from the boat Christina IV.
And owner L & N Friendship Corp. and Lang Ho, of Harvey, received a $20,000 penalty for catching 3,950 pounds of shrimp from a closed zone on Aug. 19.
Benjamin Alexander-Bloch can be reached at or 504.352.2552.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Take action today and tell EPA Administrator Jackson to regulate coal ash as the hazardous waste it is


November 17, 2010
Tell EPA that coal ash is hazardous waste!
Dear Friend,

Coal ash is a dangerous mix of arsenic, lead, mercury and other poisons.

Without proper disposal, it can contaminate drinking water supplies, surface waters and communities.  EPA must decide whether to regulate toxic coal ash as a hazardous waste, or continue to regulate it in the same way as household trash.

Take action today and tell EPA Administrator Jackson to regulate coal ash as the hazardous waste it is.

Watch The Gruesome Lethal Lakes on

There are thousands of dangerous and poorly managed coal ash impoundments and thousands more unregulated coal ash dumps across the nation - putting your community in harm's way. Without your action, EPA may succumb to pressure by the coal industry and value profits over people.  Don't let this happen!
Make your voice heard before midnight on Friday, November 19!
For clean water and strong communities,

Scott, Janelle, & Allie
The Dirty Lie Team
 Contact Waterkeeper Alliance:

50 S. Buckhout Street
Suite 302
Irvington, NY 10533
Phone: 914-674-0622
Fax: 914-674-4560

Follow Waterkeeper Alliance on Facebook and Twitter:

Waterkeeper Alliance | 502 S Buckhout Street | Suite 302 | Irvington | NY | 10533

Gulf Coast Citizens, Local politicians and Not-for-Profit Groups Gather in Support of the Still Oil Ravaged Gulf

For Immediate Release

Karen Mayer Hopkins
Dean Blanchard Seafood
Gulf Change

Gulf Coast Citizens, Local politicians and Not-for-Profit Groups Gather in Support of the Still Oil Ravaged Gulf

Grand Isle, Louisiana - The Gulf of Mexico is still under assault by legions of oil on a daily basis. Although BP and federal officials have all but declared the disaster over, local citizens, politicians, environmental and industry groups understand the effects of the April 20 spill are still in the early stages.

A growing number of coastal citizens are now ill from the effects of the dispersants and oil, the validity of the FDA’s safe seafood claim has been disputed in a number of independent tests, the ecosystem is suffering exponentially, the offshore drilling moratorium - although lifted, is still in effect due to the lack of issuance of new permits, and sub-sea and surface oil and dispersant continues to come ashore daily affecting humans, wildlife and domestic animals.

This rally will center around sharing of information by those who live, work and play at ground zero for the spill, and their unique experiences.

Independent test results, interviews and all relevant information will be available to the press.

All local and state politicians; as well as, the EPA, FDA, NOAA, Coast Guard, DEQ and other involved entities have been invited to attend.

Speakers for the rally will include: Cherri Foytlin, Kindra Arnesen, Billy Nungessor, Karen Hopkins, Drew Landry, Susan Felio Price, Mac Mackenzie, Matt Smith, Dean Blanchard, A.J. Varner, Jessica Hagan and a representative from the law firm of Leake & Anderson, additional speakers to be announced.

Donations will be taken to send a delegation to speak to congressional leaders in Washington D.C.

Food in the form of Bar-B-Cue and Shrimp will be available free of charge.

“The objective of the event is to meet with Gulf Coast Residents and present our case, regarding the health of our people, the impact on our communities, etc. We want to compile a "history" of our feelings, experiences, beliefs, whatever they may be, since the oil spill. It is not a "bash BP and/or the govt. event", it is a RALLY FOR THE PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO TELL THEIR TRUTHS.” - Event Organizer, Karen Hopkins

The event is scheduled for 11/20/10 and  will begin at 1:00 p.m. on the property of  Pirate Island Daquiri Shop  on La. 1 in Grand Isle, several hundred people are expected to be in attendance.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blood Beaches own Noah, Sings the BP song with Drew Landry!

Great Job Noah!!!!!!!!!!!!
I want to interview Noah when I return to the coast. It's time to hear from the kids!

Noah is the son of Lorrie and Bubba   of Blood Beach (video seen below Noah)

My cousin Elik Gilmore took me to the mouth of the same Little Bayou shown in the video below and taught me to cast net for Mullet.
I remember it being lush and green with marsh grass and small trees. BP oil came ashore and changed it forever.

BLOOD BEACH, Ocean Springs Mississippi

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ocean Springs Fishermen oiled and out of work

My first memories of the Gulf Coast were in this house in Ocean Springs.

I used to walk a few blocks from here to catch crabs for dinner.
My cousin Elick Gilmore took me to the mouth of the same Little Bayou shown in the video below and taught me to cast net for Mullet.
I remember it being lush and green with marsh grass and small trees. BP oil came ashore and changed it forever.

Corals found dead and dying in Gulf

Corals found dead and dying in Gulf

The Associated Press
A sea fan with brittle star Asteroschema clings to coral several miles from the site of the blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico. The coral is also colonized by a type of anemone, shown on the right, that grows on the dead coral branches.
By Bettina Boxall Los Angeles Times
Published: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 at 11:14 p.m.
LOS ANGELES | Scientists on a research cruise this week found a community of dead and dying deep-sea corals not far from the site of BP's blown-out well head.
“Within minutes of our arrival ... it was evident to the biologists on board that this site was unlike any others that we have seen over the course of hundreds of hours of studying the deep corals in the Gulf of Mexico over the last decade,” Penn State University biology professor Charles Fisher and the cruise's chief scientist said in a news release.
A colony of hard coral at a depth of more than 4,000 feet was sloughing off tissue and producing mucous, while a nearby community of soft corals had extensive bare areas. A type of starfish associated with the coral was also in bad shape.
Using a remotely operated robotic vessel, government and academic researchers on the federal ship Ronald H. Brown were surveying coral communities they have studied for several years. Most showed no changes from previous visits.
But when the ship crew focused underwater cameras on colonies seven miles southwest of the BP leak, images of stricken corals covered with a brown substance popped up on the screen.
The researchers will analyze sediment and coral samples for evidence of hydrocarbons and the chemical dispersants that were extensively used to break up the crude that spewed for months from BP's Macondo well head nearly a mile below the Gulf's surface before it was capped in July.

Fisher said the lab results may not be conclusive. “A plume of toxic dispersant or oil blowing through this community could have caused damage that resulted in the slow death of the corals without leaving any trace on the sea floor near the corals,” he said. “No one even knows if dispersant accumulates in the tissues that it kills.”
But the circumstantial evidence all pointed to the massive oil leak as the prime suspect. The coral community was not far from the spill site, was at the right depth and in the right direction to be hit by an oil plume and was recently damaged.
“These observations capture our concern for impacts to marine life in places in the gulf that are not easily seen,” Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a statement.

Gulf spill could have $4B impact

Gulf spill could have $4B impact

By Patrick Rupinski Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 at 8:34 p.m.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf could cost the state more than $4 billion in lost economic output and workers' earnings, according to a University of Alabama analysis.
The analysis released Friday and prepared by UA economists Samuel Addy and Ahmad Ijaz said in a worst-case scenario the months-long spill resulted in a $3.3 billion loss in Alabama economic output and $971 million in lost earnings and affected 49,000 jobs.
“Individuals and businesses could make $1.6 billion in claims and the state and local governments could make a collective $149 million claim for lost tax revenue” in the worst-case scenario, the analysis said.
The economists, who work at UA's Center for Business and Economic Research, analyzed four scenarios to gauge the impact on the state of the oil spill.
The study said that under the best-case scenario Alabama lost $1 billion in economic output with $97 million in lost earnings from 13,600 jobs.
The worst oil spill in the country's history started April 20 when BP's Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded in the Gulf off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers. Oil flowed into the Gulf until July 15, when the underwater well was capped. The spill spread an oil slick that affected the waters and shorelines of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Florida.
The UA analysis looked only at the spill's impact through September, but noted that spill's effects are expected to last a number of years. “Future year impacts will depend on additional information gained over time about the nature of the disaster and the response to it. ...,” the analysis said.
The state industries that took the hardest hit from the spill were tourism, which includes recreational fishing, commercial fishing and water transportation, the economists said. But they noted lost economic opportunities and lost earnings in those industries affected other industries and workers, too.

Riley: Spill claims taking Alabama for a ride

The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 at 8:38 p.m.
MOBILE | Gov. Bob Riley says the oil spill claims process is on a roller coaster, speeding up when leaders call a meeting to air complaints and slowing down again soon after.
Riley voiced his complaint after he joined Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, in a meeting Thursday in Mobile with oil spill claims czar Ken Feinberg.
Feinberg spent most of the morning listening to business owners explain how they and others in their industry feel left out in the cold by Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
Most of the owners said that they and others got payments that covered only a fraction of their losses.
Feinberg took down claim numbers from many of those present and promised to give them his personal attention. Feinberg said he would “try to do right” by the business owners he talked with.
The (Mobile) Press-Register reported that Riley told Feinberg about one claimant who presented all the required documentation and had it audited by a certified public accountant — then was told only 2 to 10 percent of the claim would be paid and the claimant must agree not to sue BP.
Riley, who did not name the claimant, called it “an incredible injustice.” Feinberg said he would check on that specific claim, Riley said.
“This has been as much of a roller coaster ride as anything that I have participated in since I’ve been governor,” said Riley, in his eighth year in the office. “I hope that Mr. Feinberg understands he holds the future of all these small businesses in south Alabama in his hands.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

While oil-soaked birds get much attention, Gulf rigs remain bright, often fatal beacons

Published: Monday, November 01, 2010, 4:45 AM

This platform in the North Sea was outfitted with new green-hued lights believed to be less attractive to migrating birds. In the Gulf of Mexico and other oil fields around the world, huge flocks of birds have been documented flying in circles around oil platforms at night, often until they die of exhaustion. Scientists believe the birds become disoriented by the brightly lit platforms. Based on the experiment at this platform, Dutch researchers suggested a switch to green lighting in the North Sea would reduce the number of birds affected by lights from 6 million per year to fewer than 600,000.
While the plight of a few thousand oil-coated birds received much attention during the BP spill, scientists believe that the mere presence of 4,000 oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico may take a much larger toll on the bird population every single year.
nightrig.jpgView full size

A 2005 federal study found that birds migrating across the Gulf at night can become disoriented by the brightly lighted oil platforms and fly around them in circles for hours at a time, often until they become exhausted and fall into the sea and die.
That study called for further investigation into the newly discovered “nocturnal circulation” phenomenon, but federal officials never followed up, according to a statement that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management e-mailed to the Press-Register.
The agency — formerly known as the U.S. Minerals Management Service — did not provide an answer when asked last week why the call for further study was ignored.
Meanwhile, Dutch researchers working on platforms in the North Sea believe that simply switching to a new kind of light bulb could nearly eliminate the problem.
Two Dutch oil companies teamed up with Royal Philips Electronics to create a new green-hued light that doesn’t seem to attract birds. Employed on a platform off Holland in 2007, the green light appeared to work so successfully that Dutch scientists suggested it could reduce the number of birds that circle platforms in the North Sea by 90 percent, from 6 million a year to less than 600,000.
“That’s terrific. What a nice simple solution,” said Van Remsen, a Louisiana State University researcher who participated in the 2005 study by MMS, “Interactions Between Migrating Birds and Offshore Oil and Gas Platforms in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.”
Remsen said he hadn’t heard of the green light solution before last week, but believed that the circling problem in the Gulf could be more significant than in the North Sea, where researchers have documented up to 100,000 birds flying around a single platform.
The difficulty in estimating the actual toll on bird populations moving through the Gulf, he said, is that most of the victims fell into the sea and were eaten by fish, so there were no carcasses to count.
He said that estimates of flocks of 100,000 or more birds circling platforms sounded plausible for the Gulf based on observations during the federal study. All manner of birds — including hummingbirds, warblers, herons, cuckoos, doves, egrets, falcons, orioles, sandpipers, osprey and dozens of other woodland and shore birds — cross the Gulf.
The circling occurs primarily on cloudy nights, when the stars are obscured, Remsen said.
“Even if a bird that spent the night flying in circles around a platform heads back on its way in the morning when the sun comes up, it very likely won’t have enough gas left to make it all the way to shore,” Remsen said. “If this problem can be solved simply by changing the lights, I’d say we could save tens of thousands of birds a year, perhaps many, many, more birds.”
Remsen said he expected that it would be difficult to get federal officials to require the use of bird-friendly lighting systems. A more likely path, he said, would be for oil companies to embrace the technology voluntarily.
Representatives of Royal Dutch Shell, which participated in the Dutch research, did not respond to requests for comment about the green light experiment.
When the MMS released its 330-page study in 2005, it also issued a release titled “Oil and Gas Platforms Provide Haven for Migrating Birds.” The release made no mention of the circling behavior, although it was listed in the full study as one of three “primary” impacts that platforms have on migratory birds.
Stan Senner, head of conservation science for the Ocean Conservancy and former executive director of the Audubon Society’s Alaska office, said federal officials had clearly dropped the ball. He said that numerous studies document the millions of birds that die each year after colliding with towers or buildings on land.
“I am appalled that MMS got that report and highlighted that birds land on the platforms and didn’t talk about them colliding with platforms or flying around them in circles until they die,” Senner said.
“Certainly there were impacts on birds from the spill. Maybe getting the right kind of lighting on the platforms can be one of the ways we help counter those impacts.”
Senner also noted that federal officials just released an announcement promoting a $1.5 million study along the Atlantic Coast aimed at determining possible impacts on birds there from wind farms.
“Why are they studying possible future impacts on the Atlantic Coast and ignoring an obvious problem in the Gulf?” Senner said.
The Gulf study in 2005 found that “Once they get inside the cone of light surrounding the platform, they are either reluctant to leave or have a difficult time getting out, seemingly becoming trapped by the surrounding wall of darkness.”
The authors of the study wrote that they were ill-equipped to analyze the circling phenomenon, and that 75 species had been identified while circling platforms.
“If it’s a relatively easy fix to change the lighting on offshore structures, I’d like to know why MMS hasn’t taken any action,” said John Amos, head of SkyTruth, which monitors environmental problems using satellite imagery.
“Once again we find ourselves trailing other nations in ensuring that our offshore operations provide economic benefits while being safe for people and safe for the environment. We can do better. We should do better.”

Migrating Brown and White Pelicans in flight over South Louisiana.

Photo by John L. Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeeper
Flight privided by SouthWings