Archive for BP Oil Disaster


Understanding effects of chemical dispersants on marine wildlife is critical to whale population

March 5, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Science, Wildlife

By Matthew Phillips, NWF

During and after the 2010 BP oil spill, clean-up crews relied heavily on chemical dispersants to break up oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico. In total, crews used more than 2 million gallons of dispersants, namely Corexit 9500 and 9527, applying them directly to the head of the leaking well and over the surface waters of the Gulf. Dispersants break down oil into small droplets that easily mix with water and, in theory, biodegrade quickly. The intention is to reduce the amount of oil in an area, dispersing it throughout the water column. While debate continues over the efficacy of dispersants in cleaning up spills, their use continues to rise, despite little data on their suspected toxicity. For this reason, scientists have begun looking into the effects of these powerful chemicals on marine wildlife.

Navy_dispersant

Chemical dispersants being sprayed into the Gulf following the BP oil spill.

In a recent study out of the University of Southern Maine, “Chemical dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis are cytotoxic and genotoxic to sperm whale skin cells,” researchers tested the effects of the chemical dispersants Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 to sperm whale skin cells. There is a small population, around 1600 sperm whales, residing in the Gulf. Since these whales inhabit part of the area inundated with oil after the BP spill, there is a high chance some of these whales came into contact with oil, and with the dispersants. With so few whales, the population is highly susceptible to disturbance: any chaotic or harmful event threatens its overall vitality. In addition, the most recent IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classified sperm whales as Vulnerable, meaning they are at risk of extinction. Therefore, understanding the effects of chemical dispersants on sperm whales is critical for ensuring the population’s health and stability.

To begin the process, researchers grew skin cells from samples obtained from Gulf whales before the spill. They applied varying concentrations of the two dispersants to the cultured cells, and measured the effects for one day. Since chemicals can be harmful in different ways, researchers studied the dispersants’ toxicity to the cells (called cytotoxicity) and to chromosomes (called genotoxicity). They found both dispersants to be poisonous to the cells, but only Corexit 9527 to be toxic to the cells’ genetic material.

Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity have different implications. A chemical that is cytotoxic –poisonous only at the cellular level—may cause fatal or non-fatal issues for individual organisms, such as skin lesions or respiratory complications. A chemical that is genotoxic, that disrupts the functions of genes, can leave an imprint on the next generation. It may cause problems in mating, reproduction, or calf development. A sperm whale exposed to Corexit 9527 may be unable to reproduce. If she can reproduce, she may have mal-formed or non-reproductive offspring.

Genotoxicity can have lingering detrimental effects on the population as a whole, endangering its future. While it would be valuable to know which dispersant is more toxic, researchers caution it is difficult to compare them because the effects are very different. Corexit 9500 was slightly more cytotoxic, but Corexit 9527 was significantly more genotoxic. Ultimately, the choice of which to use may depend on which outcome is more, or perhaps less, desirable.

There is no way to determine how many whales were exposed to dispersants, nor the degree of exposure. But a 2014 study citing widespread health problems among Gulf marine mammals, including complications in fetus development, gives cause for concern. The population’s size, the toxicity of chemical dispersants, and reports of toxin-related health problems make clear that Gulf sperm whales are at risk. Researchers will continue monitoring the health of the population, and only time will illuminate the full effects. Until we know more, we’re left wondering: if dispersants harm wildlife, how useful are they?

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Five Years Later, Scientists Gather to Assess Ongoing Impact of BP Oil Spill

February 26, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Science

By Alisha Renfro, National Wildlife Federation & Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Societyoil slick

Last week while some people on the Gulf Coast were in the thick of celebrating Mardi Gras, more than 1000 scientists, including those from the Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign, met in Houston, Texas, to attend the third-annual Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference. The four-day conference, which included a mix of keynotes and oral and poster presentations, aimed to share scientific information and forward scientific understanding of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and particularly the impact of oil pollutants on this fragile ecosystem. Nearly five years since the BP oil spill, the takeaway is clear: The effects of the oil spill on the Gulf ecosystem are far-reaching, ongoing and significant.

Here are three key highlights from last week’s conference:

  1. The impact is far-reaching: Research ranging from the deep sea to Gulf shoreline estuaries has documented significant impacts of the oil spill on ecosystems and on different animal and plant life.
  2. The impact is ongoing: Recent research has found a large amount of the oil discharged during the spill can still be found in offshore sediments. Storms, like Hurricane Isaac in 2012, redistribute oil into previously unoiled marshes and wash sandy tar balls onto beaches.
  3. The impact is significant: The rate of marsh shoreline erosion increased with oiling and continued impacts on marshes have been documented at least four years after the spill.

And for more, don’t miss some of the media coverage that came out of the conference:

  1. Los Angeles Times: “BP cherry-picks study to dodge blame for massive deaths of gulf dolphins
  2. Houston Chronicle: “Studies: BP spill reduced Gulf life
  3. Houston Public Media: “Houston Conference Highlights Scientific Research On Deepwater Oil Spill Damage

Want to learn about efforts to provide meaningful restoration in the ongoing wake of the BP oil spill? Visit mississippiriverdelta.org, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. You can also share this post with your network using the following tweet:

  • 5 years later, major oil spill science conference tells us BP effects are evident and ongoing: http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/blog/2015/02/26/five-years-later-scientists-gather-to-assess-ongoing-impact-of-bp-oil-spill/ #GulfScienceConference
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Third and Final Phase of the BP Trial Brought to a Close on February 2, 2015

February 9, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Federal Policy, RESTORE Act

By Will Lindsey 

This is the second post about phase III of trial. To read part I, click here.

The third and final phase of the BP trial ended on Monday, February 2, 2015. Based on the evidence presented in this phase, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will decide the Clean Water Act civil penalty that both BP and Anadarko, a 25 percent non-operator in the Macando well, will pay. The United States is seeking the maximum Clean Water Act penalty of up to $13.7 billion from BP and an amount more than $1 billion from Anadarko.

Throughout the trial, Judge Barbier was relatively quiet, occasionally inserting questions or points of clarification. Towards the end of the trial, however, Judge Barbier suggested on numerous occasions that some of the testimony BP was presenting was duplicative. This was especially true during the testimony of a BP exploration & production executive, Richard Morrison. As Mr. Morrison was testifying about the extent of BP’s response efforts after the spill, Judge Barbier interrupted at least twice to suggest that it was testimony that he had already heard from previous witnesses.

Judge Barbier also interrupted during the testimony of one of Anadarko’s witnesses. For its second witness, Anadarko called Kenneth Arnold, an expert in the field of safety in drilling operations. Mr. Arnold testified that requiring additional duties of non-operators, such as Clean Water Act civil penalties, could lead to confusion and ultimately a lower level of safety in drilling operations. This argument aligns with Anadarko’s overall theme – that there was no act committed by Anadarko as a non-operator, and thus assessing a Clean Water Act civil penalty against the company would not serve to deter future behavior. Judge Barbier stepped in here, however, suggesting that a policy argument such as this should be made before Congress and not in the courtroom. Despite allowing Anadarko to proceed with Mr. Arnold’s testimony, Judge Barbier noted that Congress had already clearly decided to make an “owner or operator” liable for discharges under the Clean Water Act.

The United States has several strong arguments weighing in favor of a high Clean Water Act civil penalty. The first is that there were numerous stakeholders involved in the spill response, including the U.S. Coast Guard and a number of federal agencies. Each of these entities expended time, resources and expertise in responding to the spill. Given that one of the factors that Judge Barbier will consider in assessing the civil penalty is the success of efforts to minimize or mitigate the effects of the discharge is, it is important that BP not get credit for the entirety of the spill response actions that were taken, as indeed BP was not responding to the spill in isolation. The second big point weighing in favor of a higher penalty is that lowering the civil penalty based on previously paid penalties, such as criminal penalty assessed against BP, would ultimately dilute the effect of these penalties.

During opening statements, Judge Barbier asked the parties if there was any precedent for requiring that a Clean Water Act civil penalty be paid over a specified amount of time rather than as a single lump sum. The United States indicated that there was at least one such instance in a Clean Water Act suit. This indicates, at least to some degree, that Judge Barbier is considering the option of assessing a high civil penalty against the company.

Due to the enactment of the RESTORE Act, 80 percent of the penalties resulting from this phase will go to the Gulf Coast for restoration. This funding cannot come soon enough given the high price tag that many coastal restoration projects carry with them. Ultimately, the funding stemming from this trial could mean the difference in reversing the trend of coastal wetland loss that has been impacting the gulf coast for decades.

It is unclear when exactly Judge Barbier will come out with a penalty ruling. But recent polling indicates that 70 percent of Americans believe BP should pay the maximum allowed under the Clean Water Act for its role in one of the largest oil spills in American history. It is imperative to both the Gulf and the nation that BP be held fully accountable.

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Survey Says Majority of Americans Believe BP Should Pay Maximum Gulf Oil Spill Fines

February 6, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Media Resources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org

Survey Says Majority of Americans Believe BP Should Pay Maximum Gulf Oil Spill Fines
70 percent say oil company should be fined the maximum allowed under the Clean Water Act

(New Orleans – February 6, 2015) A new national survey reports that 70 percent of Americans polled nationwide believe “BP should be fined the maximum amount allowed under the Clean Water Act” for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The third and final phase of the BP oil spill civil trial, which will determine how much the oil company will be required to pay in fines, concluded this week in New Orleans. BP could be ordered to pay up to $13.7 billion in Clean Water Act fines for its role in one of the largest oil disasters in U.S. history.

IMG_9283“The majority of Americans understand that BP has not yet paid any civil penalties for its reckless discharge of oil into the Gulf, nor can it claim credit for clean-up costs as if mopping up your mess is the same as fixing the damage it caused. As new scientific studies are published, we learn more and more about the lasting impacts to many species, habitats and industries,” said David Muth, director of National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf restoration program. “Five years later, Gulf restoration has not truly begun. If BP really wants Americans to believe it is sincere, it should pay the fines it owes, and fund the restoration the Gulf so badly needs.”

An overwhelming majority of Americans polled in all parts of the country said they believed BP should pay the maximum fines, even after hearing BP’s claims of what the company has already spent on “spill-related costs” thus far. This is according to the results of the independent survey conducted by the polling company, inc./WomanTrend.

“Americans aren’t fooled by BP’s misleading advertising campaigns and five years of legal shenanigans to drag out this court case,” said Douglas Meffert, executive director and vice president of Audubon Louisiana. “BP claims it wants to ‘make it right.’ If that is true, the first step is to start accepting responsibility for the damage it caused the wetlands, people and wildlife of the Gulf Coast and pay the maximum fines.”

“If BP wants anyone other than themselves to agree that they ‘made it right,’ they can step out of the shadow of lawyers, quit spinning and arguing, and just accept full responsibility,” said Steve Cochran, director of Environmental Defense Fund’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration program. “The sooner that happens, the sooner real resources can be put to work restoring the Gulf. And in this anniversary year of one of the worst oil spills in American history, that would be a great thing for the Gulf and for BP.”

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Phase III, Week 1: Recap of the BP oil spill trial

January 25, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Federal Policy

By Will Lindsey

The first week of phase III of the BP trial ended on Friday, January 23. During this phase, which is expected to last three weeks, Judge Carl Barbier will determine the amount of Clean Water Act civil penalties that BP must pay for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.

Phase III comes after two previous phases, the first of which determined that BP was 67 percent responsible for the spill, while phase II determined that 3.19 million barrels of oil were discharged into the Gulf after the oil collected was deducted. Given these findings of fact and conclusions of law, Judge Barbier will now determine what BP will pay. In so determining, Judge Barbier will consider 8 factors laid out in the Clean Water Act for assessing civil penalties, including:

1) the seriousness of the violation or violations,

2) the economic benefit to the violator, if any, resulting from the violation,

3) the degree of culpability involved,

4) any other penalty for the same incident,

5) any history of prior violations,

6) the nature, extent, and degree of success of any efforts to the violator to minimize or mitigate the effects of the discharge,

7) the economic impact of the penalty on the violator, and

8) any other matters as justice may require.

Each side will present extensive evidence, primarily in the form of expert testimony, on most of these factors. The United States will not present new evidence on factors that it contends have already been determined, such as the degree of culpability, which was determined in phase II. In addition, the United States will not present new evidence on the economic benefit to BP of the violations, as it contends that phase I dealt with “BP’s cost-cutting decisions.

However, many of these factors will be adamantly disputed and ultimately a “battle of the experts” will ensue at trial. Each side will attempt to discredit the expert witnesses called by the opposing side. Experts will testify on BP’s ability to pay the maximum penalty, BP’s response efforts, the impact that the spill had on the environment and BP’s economic importance to the Gulf Coast, among other issues.

BP indicated in its opening statement that it will highlight the extent of its response efforts to suggest that impacts were successfully mitigated. It will also highlight the expenditures, both as a result of legal proceedings and otherwise, that it has incurred thus far. The United States will in turn emphasize the fact that response effort successes were a result of efforts carried out by numerous parties and not solely attributable to BP, as it indicated in its opening statement. Additionally, the United States will argue that a reduction of the civil penalties in this proceeding based on other penalties, like the criminal penalty, would mean that BP is effectively not paying these penalties.

Ultimately, the expert reports and testimonies of each side will differ. A clear example can be seen in the expert testimony of Captain Mark VanHaverbeke, who testified that approximately five percent of the oil was removed from the Gulf. He indicated that this estimate is lower than the estimate of BP’s expert, Captain Frank Paskewich, because it does not include oil that was dispersed or burned. Captain VanHaverbeke testified that these two methods do not actually remove the oil from the environment. Captain Paskewich’s estimates included oil that was dispersed and burned.

The Gulf Coast is desperately in need of funding for coastal restoration efforts. The billions of dollars at stake in this litigation could mean great things for coastal restoration efforts in the Gulf Coast. The United States will seek an amount close to the maximum penalty of $13.7 billion.

 

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What is Phase III of the BP Trial?

January 20, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Federal Policy, RESTORE Act

Phase III of the BP Trial started this week. But what does this mean? Why are there “phases”, and when will this trial end? All good questions.

The BP trial underway is a civil (not criminal) litigation between the U.S. Department of Justice and BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil spill. BP and others are being held accountable for violations of the Clean Water Act for spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the RESTORE Act, 80 percent of all fines and penalties resulting from this trial will return to the Gulf Coast for restoration.

Before specifically getting to Phase III, let’s recap the earlier phases. The first two phases of the trial dealt with a) who was at fault for the oil spill and to what extent, and b) how much oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. In dividing up who was at fault for the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the resulting oil spill, Judge Carl Barbier found that BP was 67 percent responsible, Transocean Ltd. (the owner of the rig) was 30 percent responsible and Halliburton (the cement contractor) was 3 percent responsible.oilslick

In September 2014, Judge Barbier ruled that BP was guilty of “gross negligence” for its actions leading to the blowout, saying BP was making “profit-driven decisions” that led to the rig explosion. In his ruling, he reiterated, “these instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks.” Being found guilty of gross negligence means BP could have to pay a fine of up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled. Most recently, Judge Barbier ruled that the amount of oil that spilled into the Gulf was 3.19 million barrels. Do the math (3.19 million barrels x $4,300 per barrel), and that means BP could face Clean Water Act fines up to $13.7 billion.

So, what is Phase III? Phase III is about how much BP will actually have to pay. Note that the fine amounts are “up to” $13.7 billion – this phase of the trial essentially determines the “up to.” Specifically, there are eight penalty factors set out in the Clean Water Act that help determine liability. These are judgments of mitigating circumstances that could impact the overall dollar figure that BP owes.

Ok, what’s next after this? Phase III is the final scheduled phase of the trial. At some point following this phase of the trial (and it could be months later), Judge Barbier will rule on how much BP must pay. BP continues to fight every decision, and it has already said it will appeal the ruling of gross negligence, so the courtroom battle could continue. However many observers hope that with all three phases complete, BP will be more inclined to agree to a settlement with the Department of Justice.

With billions of dollars at stake, and the timing of this money potentially coming as soon as this spring or, unfortunately, not for years if BP is able to continue appealing legal decisions, the current BP trial is critical to the fate of coastal restoration.

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Final Phase of BP Oil Spill Trial to Begin Next Week

January 15, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Birds, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Media Resources, RESTORE Act, Science, Seafood, Wildlife

Press Statement + Interview Opportunities Available

Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Lauren Bourg, National Audubon Society, 225.776.9838, lbourg@audubon.org

Final Phase of BP Oil Spill Trial to Begin Next Week

BP must be held fully accountable for its role in nation’s largest oil disaster

(New Orleans – January 15, 2015) On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, the third and final phase of the BP oil spill civil trial will begin in New Orleans. This concluding portion of the trial will determine how much BP will be required to pay in Clean Water Act fines for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.

National and local conservation organizations committed to Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – issued the following statement in advance of Tuesday’s proceedings:

“Nearly five years after the oil disaster, the people and wildlife of the Gulf Coast still wait for justice. For 87 days, BP dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into our Gulf, contaminating our marshes and beaches and jeopardizing wildlife ranging from brown pelicans to sperm whales. But the oil giant has yet to take full responsibility. BP has dragged out litigation in the courts, challenging every decision only to have each decision against them confirmed by higher courts.

“Despite claims that it would ‘make it right’ in the Gulf, BP has, for the past five years, waged a public relations war focused on blaming everyone else and denying sound scientific research showing ongoing impacts from the oil disaster. The effects of the oil spill are far from over and may not be fully known for years, or even decades, to come.

“Now the court has the opportunity and responsibility to make it right, to hold BP fully accountable for the damage done to the Gulf and to assign the maximum penalty to BP for its gross negligence. The outcome from this decision must send a clear and powerful signal to every other operator in the Gulf: deep-sea drilling is risky business, and they must protect their employees, our communities and our ecosystems. BP chose not to do that, so they deserve to pay the maximum fines allowed by law.

“Through the RESTORE Act of 2012, Congress paved the way for the Gulf’s recovery by ensuring that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines BP will pay will be reinvested into Gulf Coast restoration. But that restoration can’t begin until this case is resolved and the legal wrangling ends – and BP remains the principle barrier to much-needed funding going to vital restoration projects.

“Holding BP fully accountable for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster is the fair and right thing to do for the Gulf’s ecosystems and economies. We are hoping, after five long years, that justice is close. The Gulf has waited long enough.”

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Interview Opportunities: Interview opportunities are available with experts in science, policy, wildlife and restoration issues from our national and local conservation organizations.

Mississippi River Delta Restoration Experts:
David Muth, Director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
Douglas J. Meffert, D. Env., MBA, Executive Director, National Audubon Society (Audubon Louisiana)
Steve Cochran, Director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

Science:
John A. Lopez, Ph.D., Coastal Scientist, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
Alisha Renfro, Ph.D., Coastal Scientist, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

Policy:
Courtney Taylor, Policy Director, Ecosystems Program, Environmental Defense Fund

Background:
Since the BP oil disaster began nearly five years ago, ongoing findings deliver truths omitted by BP’s ads: the oil disaster’s negative effects are increasingly clear, present and far from resolved. Over the past year alone, new research has surfaced:

  • An October 2014 study showed that the Gulf oil disaster left an “oily bathtub ring” the size of Rhode Island on the sea floor.
  • A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detailed how exposure to BP oil can lead to abnormalities including irregular heartbeats and heart attacks in Atlantic bluefin tuna and amberjack.
  • A NOAA study revealed that dolphins exposed to BP oil had increased health problems, including adrenal problems, severe lung disease and reproductive issues.
  • A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences definitively linked a community of damaged deep water corals near the Macondo well to the BP oil spill.
  • A Louisiana State University researcher found that the BP oil spill is still killing Louisiana coastal insects.
  • Visible tar balls and tar mats continue to surface, including a 40,000-pound tar mat discovered off the coast of a Louisiana barrier island in June 2013, three years after the start of the oil spill.
  • An infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster.
Deepwater Horizon rig explosion

2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

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Another piece of the puzzle: New study sheds light on oil’s effects on plant life

January 13, 2015 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Science

By Matt Phillips, National Wildlife Federation

The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spilled nearly 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil coated the shore, covering hundreds of miles of coastline, including some of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Scientists have spent the years since the spill assessing its continuing impacts on Gulf wildlife and ecosystems. And next Tuesday in New Orleans, Phase III of the BP oil spill trial will start in New Orleans.

In a recent study, “Physiological relationship between oil tolerance and flooding tolerance in marsh plants,” Keri L. Caudle and Brian R. Maricle of Fort Hays State University in Kansas studied how oil affects plant health. Studies have demonstrated that oil can poison plants, and toxic chemicals in oil can prevent photosynthesis – the process by which plants convert sunlight to food. Since all Gulf Coast wildlife, including birds, turtles, dolphins and insects, ultimately rely on plants for food and shelter, the effects of oil on plant life could impact the entire Gulf Coast ecosystem.

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a flooding-sensitive species.

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a flooding-sensitive species.

Besides a general toxic effect, relatively little is known about how oil impacts plant health. However, substantial research has assessed how plants deal with flooding. The authors of this study hypothesized that a plant’s response to flooding might be similar to its response to oil. In both situations, plants have a harder time absorbing oxygen from their surroundings. Oxygen is critical to a plant’s survival: Plants breathe similarly to humans at times, absorbing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. If oil seeps into the soil, it could cover the plant’s roots, preventing them from absorbing oxygen.

The authors wanted to determine if oil harmed plants by preventing oxygen absorption or by poisoning them. To do so, they labeled nine species of plants as either flooding tolerant, moderately flooding tolerant or flooding sensitive. Because flooding prevents plants from absorbing oxygen from soil, flooding tolerance was an appropriate stand-in for oil tolerance. The researchers reasoned that if oil’s effects primarily prevented plants from getting oxygen, plants would have to breathe without taking in oxygen.

Prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata) is a moderately flooding-tolerant species.

Prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata) is a moderately flooding-tolerant species.

Plants are able to breathe without oxygen temporarily and produce a certain chemical compound in their roots when doing so. Therefore, the researchers measured whether this chemical was being produced to determine if the plants were still breathing but forgoing oxygen. If the effects of oil were instead due to toxic effects, then the plants would be less able to photosynthesize because their cells would be poisoned and unable to function properly.

The experimenters observed three important results. They found that flooding-sensitive plant species were breathing without oxygen, suggesting that they were struggling to absorb it from the soil. They also observed that flooding-tolerant species were not having trouble absorbing oxygen, suggesting that their tolerance to flooding afforded them a higher tolerance to oil. Third, they discovered that, regardless of tolerance to flooding, plants exposed to oil were photosynthesizing less than under normal conditions. The researchers determined that the toxic effects of the oil were interrupting the photosynthetic process.

Smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) is a flooding-tolerant plant species.

Smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) is a flooding-tolerant plant species.

The study concluded that oil affected plants most harmfully by preventing oxygen absorption, rather than through its toxic properties. Flooding-tolerant plants were better able to withstand the effects of oil, and continue absorbing oxygen, whereas flooding-sensitive plants had a harder time. They also recognized that across the board, oil proved toxic to plants. Oil tolerance followed flooding tolerance, but the toxic effects of the oil were still present across all species.

Plants are the foundation of the Gulf Coast ecosystem. Discovering the effects of oil on plant health is critical to understanding the full effects of the BP oil spill on Gulf Coast wildlife, as wildlife depend on plants for food and habitat. With this study, we have another piece of the puzzle.

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NEWS RELEASE: Conservation Groups Release Restoration Solutions for Mississippi River Delta

December 9, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Reports, Restoration Projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Lauren Bourg, National Audubon Society, 225.776.9838, lbourg@audubon.org

Conservation Groups Release Restoration Solutions for Mississippi River Delta
New report recommends a series of science-based restoration efforts to benefit coastal Louisiana

(NEW ORLEANS – December 9, 2014) Today, leading national and local conservation groups released a report outlining 19 priority projects for restoring the Mississippi River Delta following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.

Restoring the Mississippi River Delta for People and Wildlife: Recommended Projects and Priorities was jointly authored by conservation groups working together on Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – and describes a suite of restoration projects that would collectively reverse wetlands loss and help protect New Orleans and other coastal communities from storms. The project recommendations include sediment diversions, freshwater diversions, marsh creation, barrier island reconstruction, ridge restoration, shoreline protection and hydrological modifications. The proposed project solutions can work in tandem to not only build but also sustain new wetlands along Louisiana’s coast.

The report is aimed at informing a series of decisions that will be ultimately made for funds flowing from the Gulf oil disaster, including those to be made by Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council). The federal-state Council is tasked with implementing a comprehensive restoration plan to include a list of projects prioritized for their impact on the Gulf ecosystem. The Council recently released a list of projects and programs proposed for funding with oil spill penalty money.

“The Mississippi River Delta was ground zero for the Gulf oil disaster,” said David Muth, National Wildlife Federation’s director of Gulf restoration. “These project recommendations, if selected and implemented efficiently, could begin in earnest the wholesale restoration of one of the most ecologically and economically important areas in the entire country. The health of the Mississippi River Delta is a cornerstone for the health of the entire Gulf Coast. ”

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get this right and start real restoration along the Gulf Coast,” said Doug Meffert, executive director and vice president of Audubon Louisiana. “Our recommendations present a full suite of restoration solutions that work in concert, providing complementary benefits and sustaining one other. We hope the Council will select restoration projects like these, which are scientifically shown to provide the maximum benefit to the entire Gulf ecosystem.”

“By combining different types of projects in the same geographic area – for example, sediment diversions, marsh creation and barrier island restoration – we can build new land quickly and sustain it for the long term,” said Natalie Peyronnin, director of Science Policy for Environmental Defense Fund’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program. “This comprehensive approach to restoration is much more effective than using a band-aid approach. We must get restoration right – and get it started now – for the communities, wildlife and economies of the Gulf.”

“The oil spill affected wildlife and ecosystems across the Gulf Coast, and we need to make smart decisions about how to use this money to improve the health of the entire system,” said Muth. “We owe it to future generations to determine where this money can have the greatest impact and to focus our efforts there.”

The oil disaster sent roughly 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana’s coastline received the largest amount of oil and was suffering one of the fastest rates of wetlands loss in the world even prior to the spill. BP and the other companies responsible will ultimately pay billions of dollars in penalties and punitive damages, much of which will be allocated to the Gulf states for restoration.

For a full description of the 19 projects, visit http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/files/2014/12/Restoring-the-Mississippi-River-Delta-for-People-and-Wildlife.pdf

For a full description of the 19 projects, push here.

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Please contact Emily Guidry Schatzel, schatzele@nwf.org, for a recording of the telepress conference.

The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. A map of the projects and descriptions are available for download at www.mississippiriverdelta.org/map.

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Media Advisory: Conservation Groups Release Restoration Solutions for Mississippi River Delta

December 8, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects

MEDIA ADVISORY for Tuesday Dec. 9: Telepresser at 10:00 a.m. CT

Conservation Groups Release Restoration Solutions for Mississippi River Delta

New report recommends a series of science-based restoration efforts to benefit coastal Louisiana

The 2010 Gulf oil disaster dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, affecting hundreds of miles of coastline along the five Gulf states, with Louisiana's coast receiving the greatest damage. BP and the other companies responsible will pay billions of dollars in penalties and punitive damages, much of which will be allocated to the Gulf states for restoration.

In a new report, leading national and local conservation groups outline 19 priority projects for restoring the Mississippi River Delta following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster, for the benefit of people, wildlife and the national economy. Speakers on the call will also be able to comment on the recently-released Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council’s list of proposed projects.

WHAT: Restoring the Mississippi River Delta for People and Wildlife: Recommended Projects and Priorities – A report by the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition describes in detail 19 restoration projects aimed at stopping wetlands loss and restoring habitat in the Mississippi River Delta.

SPEAKERS: David Muth, Gulf Program Director, National Wildlife Federation
Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund
Dr. Doug Meffert, Vice President and Executive Director, Audubon Louisiana

WHEN: Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 10:00 am CT
1-800-791-2345, code 69498

CONTACTS:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Lauren Bourg, National Audubon Society, 225.776.9838, lbourg@audubon.org

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The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. See more at www.mississippiriverdelta.org.

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