Archive for BP Oil Disaster


$52.2 million in oil spill funds approved for Louisiana coastal restoration

December 15, 2015 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Elizabeth Weiner, Senior Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

4689SecPritzkerWebCr Robert smith wildlife Mississippi

Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce and Chair of the RESTORE Council. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

Last week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council approved its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) of projects and programs to fund with civil penalties available from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Transocean settlement. This is an important step forward for the entire Gulf Coast that is still recovering from the spill. In particular for the Mississippi River Delta, the FPL demonstrates both the state of Louisiana’s commitment to funding Coastal Master Plan projects with RESTORE dollars and progress in implementing the master plan.

Louisiana submitted five project proposals, all of which are projects from the Coastal Master Plan. While these projects are still in planning phases, they represent critical near-term opportunities to keep the Mississippi River Delta on its path to recovery and sustainability. The Louisiana master plan projects receiving funding include:

Two additional projects, Jean Lafitte Canal Backfilling ($8.7 million; implementation) and Bayou Dularge Ridge, Marsh and Hydrologic Restoration ($5.2 million; planning), are also located in Louisiana and were included in the Council’s FPL. These two projects, submitted for funding by federal members of the RESTORE Council, are complementary to and consistent with the Coastal Master Plan and will directly benefit coastal Louisiana.

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The finalization of this FPL comes in follow-up to positive progress made through other Gulf oil spill funding streams – the National Fish and Wildlife Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created by criminal plea agreements with multiple responsible parties, and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDA) process.

Now that BP’s settlement of civil penalties and responsibilities under NRDA is pending, both the RESTORE Council and the NRDA Trustee Council will be able to make even more progress, with an eye toward large-scale restoration. For the RESTORE Council, the next step will be an update to its Initial Comprehensive Plan to improve decision-making, project selection, and to consider the projects planned and funded through the other oil spill funding streams. For the NRDA Trustees, their next step will be considering public comments and finalizing the draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.

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RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

December 9, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

(December 9, 2015 – Biloxi, Miss.) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council voted to approve its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) – a compilation of restoration projects the Council will prioritize for funding and implementation following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. This set of projects will be funded by a portion of RESTORE Act dollars designated for ecosystem restoration from the Transocean Clean Water Act settlement.

National and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“We congratulate the RESTORE Council and staff on their efforts to finalize this Funded Priorities List. Our organizations look forward to continuing to monitor projects as they move into the implementation phase.

“Additionally, now that the BP settlement is near final, the RESTORE Council and the Gulf states have a tremendous opportunity ahead to achieve broader meaningful restoration and lasting resilience for the essential ecosystems of the Gulf. However, with certainty around funding levels, the Council will be faced with difficult decisions. In order to make progress toward comprehensive restoration, the Council will need a science-based process for prioritizing future projects, with a focus on more large-scale proposals. With the first BP settlement payments on the horizon, it is essential that the Council promptly turn its attention to updating the Comprehensive Plan, so that it can serve as a tool to guide future investments around the Gulf. We stand ready to assist the Council and staff as they undertake this critical next step.”

Media Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@saveourlake.org

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What We Know Now About the BP Oil Disaster

November 16, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 5 Years Later, BP Oil Disaster, Science, Seafood, Wildlife

By Ryan Fikes, Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation, Gulf Restoration Campaign

This post has been cross-posted from the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Promise blog.

It’s been more than five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. Since that time, a council of federal and state Trustees have been extensively investigating the impacts of the disaster on wildlife and habitats, but that information has been kept under wraps—for use in litigation against BP. Now that the case has settled, this research has finally been made public in a draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.

The impacts to wildlife and their habitats are shocking and far reaching. Despite clean-up efforts and the natural weathering processes over the five years since the spill, oil persists in some habitats where it continues to expose resources in the northern Gulf of Mexico. In many cases, the damage to wildlife and habitats was more severe than previously understood. The ecological linkages of these habitats and communities and their connectivity to the larger Gulf of Mexico ecosystem can result in cascading impacts, influencing the overall health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

Together, the National Wildlife Federation and Ocean Conservancy scientists have worked to dig in to the massive report and digest its findings. Here is a snapshot of the types and severity of impacts outlined in the draft report.

 BP_impacts_web_small

1. Birds

While the Trustees acknowledge that this is a very conservative estimate, the total number of birds killed by the BP oil disaster is from 56,100 to 102,400 birds. At least 93 species of birds across all five Gulf Coast states were exposed to oil.

2. Beach & Dune Habitat

BP oil covered at least 1,300 miles of the Gulf coastline, including 600 miles of beach, dune and barrier island habitat.

3. Lost Human Use

The public lost 16,857,116 days of boating, fishing and beach-going experiences. The total loss of recreational use of the Gulf due to the disaster is worth $528 million to $859 million.

4. Oysters

Between 4 and 8.3 billion oysters are estimated to have been lost. Over three generations (minimum recovery time), the dead oysters would have produced a total of 240 to 508 million pounds of fresh oyster meat.

5. Salt Marsh

Louisiana lost up to 53 percent of its salt marsh plants across 350-721 miles of shoreline. In Louisiana wetlands, erosion rates approximately doubled along at least 108 miles of shoreline. The effect lasted for at least 3 years.

6. Sargassum

Sargassum, a floating seaweed that provides habitat for young fish and sea turtles, was exposed to oil, which may have caused the loss of up to 23 percent of this important habitat.

7. Seagrass Habitat

Seagrass beds covering a total area roughly the size of 206 football fields (272 acres) were lost from the time of the disaster through 2012.

8. Larval Fish

The Trustees estimated that 2-5 trillion larval fish were killed. The loss of larval fish likely translated into millions to billions of fish that would have reached a year old had they not been killed by the BP oil disaster.

9. Sea Trout

Several of species of sea trout, including the spotted (or speckled) sea trout, were severely impacted by the disaster. An estimated 20-100 billion sea trout larvae were killed as a result of the disaster.

10. Shrimp

The growth of young white, pink and brown shrimp was dramatically affected by oil. The total loss of shrimp production over 2010 and 2011 due to oiling is estimated at more than 2,300 tons.

11. Red Drum

The growth of young red drum fell by up to 47 percent along marsh shorelines in Louisiana that were persistently oiled since 2010, and an estimated 700 tons of red drum were lost. Reduced red drum production persisted through 2013 and is expected to continue.

12. Whales

While nearly all of the species of whales in the footprint of the oil have demonstrable, quantifiable injuries, the most hard-hit was the Bryde’s whale. With only about 50 Bryde’s whales left in the Gulf, roughly half of these animals were exposed to oil—and nearly a quarter were killed. It is unclear if Bryde’s whales will be able to recover.

13. Bottlenose Dolphins

The number of bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay and Mississippi Sound—two areas particularly affected by the disaster—is projected to decline by half. The populations are expected to take 40-50 years to recover. In the 5 years after the oil disaster, more than 75 percent of pregnant dolphins observed within the oil footprint failed to give birth to a viable calf.

14. Coral Reefs

The footprint of injury to mid-depth coral reefs is just over 4 square miles. These areas along the continental shelf edge, known as the Pinnacles, showed extensive damage to both the coral colonies and the reef fish associated with them. The larger ecological functions of this habitat were very likely impaired.

15. Sea Turtles

All five of the Gulf’s sea turtles are either threatened or endangered. It is estimated that somewhere between 61,000 and 173,000 sea turtles—of all ages—were killed during the disaster. For the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, this equals 10-20 percent of the average number of nesting females each year, which would have laid approximately 65,000 – 95,000 additional hatchlings.

16. Deep Seafloor

The footprint of BP oil on the Gulf seafloor around the wellhead is an area more than 20 times the size of Manhattan (over 770 square miles). An additional 3,300 square miles may have been affected.

Click here to view the PDF of the graphics and impacts data.

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Louisiana Wins!

October 21, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Restore the Coast

Louisiana Wins!

With a flurry of last minute discussions among members of our campaign, America’s Wetland Foundation, the LA-1 Coalition, and the CPRA Board – we were able to come to an agreement that replaced the original draft resolution that would have diverted coastal restoration money to LA-1, with a resolution directing CPRA staff to develop a prioritization process for coastal infrastructure projects that could spend up to 10% of available funds under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).  GOMESA has already authorized such spending up to 10%, and this is an appropriate use of those dollars.

In other words – working together we found a solution that protects coastal funding, and appropriately addresses coastal infrastructure needs, including LA-1.  That would not have happened without a huge outpouring of support for the protection of coastal funding.  Thanks very much to everyone who voiced support or helped on this in any way!  It made a huge difference.

Coupled with CPRA’s formal recommendation today that the state move forward on two major sediment diversions – using the natural force of the river to begin restoring land along our coast – this was a great day for Louisiana, and for all of us who  are working to #RestoreTheCoast!

See our full statement here.

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Conservation Groups Pleased to See Gulf Restoration Efforts Advance

October 5, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Media Resources, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

Conservation Groups Pleased to See Gulf Restoration Efforts Advance

NRDA Trustees Release 1,500-Page Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan

(NEW ORLEANS – October 5, 2015) Today, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees released their draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) for the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 oil disaster. The U.S. Department of Justice, BP and the five Gulf states also released their proposed Consent Decree to finalize the $20.8 billion agreement in principle resolving state and federal government claims against BP from the Gulf oil disaster.

In response to these announcements, national and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement:

“More than five years after the oil disaster, we are encouraged to see Gulf restoration move forward with release of the NRDA Trustees’ draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan. While we have not yet engaged on the details of the plan, we applaud the Trustees for their work to get to this point.

“The oil disaster damaged hundreds of miles of shoreline; killed more than one million birds, mammals and other wildlife – and we will not know the full environmental effects of the spill for decades to come. The NRDA process will help bring the Gulf back to the state it was before the spill, and the release of this plan is a positive step toward that end. It is also encouraging to see the concept of maximizing sediment delivery included in the DARP, and the recognition of the potential value of that approach through river diversions.

“We are also pleased to see forward movement on finalizing the settlement with BP. Once the consent decree is approved, it will provide a steady funding stream to the Gulf – funds that are vital to the restoration and long-term ecological health of the region. In Louisiana, this money will help fund the state’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.

“The health of the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast ecosystems is important not only to the communities and economies of the region, but to the entire nation that depends on the Gulf for ports, energy, seafood, tourism and other important industries.

“Today’s announcements get us one step closer to realizing a restored and revitalized Gulf Coast. We look forward to working with the NRDA Trustees on finalizing their plans.”

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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. Learn more at MississippiRiverDelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ten Years after Katrina, What the BP Settlement Means for Louisiana Restoration

July 16, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, 5 Years Later, BP Oil Disaster, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, K10, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Science

By Steve Cochran, Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program, Environmental Defense Fund

Ten years ago, just after Hurricane Katrina, I was asked to talk to Environmental Defense Fund’s board about the place where I grew up, the New Orleans area that had been hit so hard.

I remember two things about that discussion. One was my voice breaking unexpectedly (and embarrassingly) as we talked through pictures of the Katrina aftermath and came across places I intimately knew.

As an adult, I had developed a love/hate relationship with my home – loving the beauty, the people, the community and the culture, but frustrated by what I saw as the general tolerance of mediocrity and corrupt politics that limited its possibilities. That frustration had pushed the love down, and I had moved away. But there it was again. Sometimes you don’t know how much you care.

The second thing I remember was saying that the Katrina response was a deep test of our governments – local, state and national. As we know now, in that moment, it was a test they failed. But fast forward to July 2, 2015, the day a global settlement was announced in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case. It was a day when governments rose to the occasion. The result was literally the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history.

The BP Settlement and Louisiana Coastal Restoration

Under the agreement, Louisiana will receive more than a third of the money – $6.8 billion of the $18.7 billion, and $5.8 billion of that is specifically targeted to restoration. The overall restoration total for Louisiana will likely be just under $8 billion, including early restoration dollars and criminal settlements.

These are significant resources at a critical time. Land loss across the coast of Louisiana, exacerbated by the spill, continues at a fearful rate. But we are making progress against that loss, and with the solid state commitment that now exists, and effective plans in place, these resources will allow us to battle back in earnest, with a clear-eyed view toward success.

In particular, the state plans to re-engage the enormous power of the Mississippi River and its sediment through a series of sediment diversions – using the natural land-building capacity of the river by reconnecting it to the delta it originally built. This science-based, innovative approach is the critical piece in our ability to provide solutions at a scale that can match the challenges in the Mississippi River Delta – now the largest restoration effort under way in the world.

Rebuilding Our Coast to Protect Our Communities

About a month after the spill, I was allowed to sit in on a tribal council of the indigenous United Houma Nation. As the oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, which it would do for another two months, I listened and watched as a man described, through a quiet voice and uncontrolled tears, how he had always looked to the waters of the Gulf and drawn confidence, knowing he could always provide for his family by accepting its gifts. But now all he could feel was fundamental fear.

Money can’t replace that kind of loss any more than it can bring back the 11 loved ones who lost their lives in the accident.

But we must do what we can – and in that context, the BP settlement is a tremendous step forward, because we can restore the Mississippi River Delta, so it can protect this area in the future.

Details matter, of course, and details remain to be decided as the Agreement in Principle is turned into a consent decree. We need to remain involved and vigilant. But it does seem clear that this agreement combines avoiding years of litigation with levels of funding that can truly make a difference.

With these resources, we can go to work to make sure that the largest environmental settlement in our nation’s history also becomes the most meaningful settlement in a place that, well, I love.

 

 

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Deepwater Horizon Settlement – Some Answers, New Questions

July 8, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Federal Policy, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act

This information was originally posted on the Environmental Law Institute's website. 
By ELI Gulf Team

On July 2, 2015, a monumental announcement was made: an agreement in principle has been reached to settle all federal and state claims against BP arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for $18.732 billion (see BP’s press release here). This amount includes:

BP-Settlement-breakdown

 

While we are still waiting on the exact details of the settlement, we do know some of the terms. We will focus on the natural resource damages and Clean Water Act civil penalties (specifically the RESTORE Act) here, considering:

1. What do we know?
2. What were the potential damages or penalties?
3. What information is still missing?

Note that this agreement is by no means final: the details still need to be hammered out and, once they are, they will be set out in a consent decree, which will be open for public comment before it goes to the court for final approval.

Natural Resource Damages (NRD)

As a refresher, a Natural Resource Damage Assessment is a process focused on restoring natural resources injured by an oil spill. The goal is to restore the resources to the condition they would have been in had the oil spill not occurred (called “baseline”). This process is led by government representatives called “trustees.” The parties responsible for the spill pay for, among other things, the costs of restoration.

1. What do we know?

BP has agreed to pay $7.1 billion in natural resource damages. This is in addition to the $1 billion already committed for early restoration. The $8.1 billion total is divided as follows:

NRD-Funding

 

Louisiana will receive the bulk of the funding (over 60%). Notably, over $1 billion will go to open ocean projects, which have not received a substantial amount of funding under early restoration.

A few additional notes:

  • The money will be paid out over 15 years
  • Interest will accrue on the unpaid balance; this interest is payable the year after the last NRD payment, but the Gulf states and federal government may request payment of the accrued interest after 10 years to address unknown natural resource damages
  • An additional $232 million will be made available for unknown natural resource damages the year after the $7.1 billion is paid
  • An additional $350 million will be paid for costs related to assessing the natural resource damages

2. What were the potential damages?

Natural resource damages were in the process of being assessed when the agreement was announced. Evaluation of damages is complicated, and we will know more about the quantification of damages after more information is released (much of it was confidential due to the potential for litigation).

3. What information is still missing?

There is still information we do not know, including:

  • The terms under which the interest can be accessed early
  • The terms under which the additional $232 million can be accessed
  • What types of restoration projects will be chosen
  • The timeline for the restoration plan(s) and implementing projects

As for participation opportunities, in addition to commenting on the terms of the consent decree, there will be opportunities for the public to comment on the restoration plan(s) and projects. We will post these opportunities on our Public Participation Bulletin Board as they arise.

RESTORE Act

As a refresher, the RESTORE Act diverts 80% of Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties collected as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf for restoration and recovery. The funds go to five different “pots” (learn more here).

1. What do we know?

BP has agreed to pay $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act civil penalties, which means that $4.4 billion (80% of $5.5 billion) will flow through RESTORE. The graph below shows how this $4.4 billion will be allocated:

RESTORE-Funding-chart

 

Among the states, Louisiana is slated to receive the most RESTORE Act funding (18% of the RESTORE funds). Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi will receive around 14% of the RESTORE funds, with Texas receiving 10%.

A few additional notes:

  • The money will be paid out over 15 years
  • Interest will accrue on the balance, payable the year the last RESTORE Act payment is made
  • Adding the $4.4 billion to the $800 million already flowing through RESTORE (from the Transocean settlement), a total of $5.2 billion has now been obligated to RESTORE

2. What were the potential penalties?

BP’s Clean Water Act civil penalties were the subject of ongoing litigation (see our post on the trial here). The court had not released a decision on the penalty amount before the settlement announcement. At the time of the announcement, BP faced a $13.7 billion maximum penalty.

3. What information is still missing?

At this time, we don’t know how the states will spend their share of the funding and what their priorities will be (though Louisiana is expected to fund projects from its Coastal Master Plan). We also don’t know what types of projects the RESTORE Council will prioritize for funding.

As for participation opportunities, in addition to commenting on the consent decree, there will be state-specific and Gulf-wide participation opportunities. We will track these on our Public Participation Bulletin Board.

New Questions

Once the details of the agreement are fleshed out, there will be answers to many of our remaining questions. A number of questions will nonetheless persist – particularly on which projects will be chosen and how they will be implemented. It is therefore essential that the public remain involved and participate as the restoration processes move forward. While the agreement represents a monumental step forward, it is just the start of a long recovery road ahead.

For more information on the Environmental Law Institute's Ocean Program, click here.

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Gulf Restoration Groups Ready to Put Billions to Work to Bring Back Gulf

July 2, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Federal Policy, Media Resources, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@pobox.com

Gulf Restoration Groups Ready to Put Billions to Work to Bring Back Gulf

Region’s economy and well-being are based on strong, resilient ecosystem

(New Orleans, LA – July 2, 2015) National and local organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement of an agreement in principle between the Gulf states, federal government and BP for its role in the largest U.S. offshore oil disaster in history. Although the settlement will not be finalized for several weeks, the agreement will dedicate billions of dollars to restore damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“In sharp contrast to the decades-long litigation following the Exxon Valdez spill, federal and state leaders have wasted no time in closing this case. Their swift work means meaningful restoration efforts are imminent. Their leadership, at this moment, is invaluable. 

While we await key details, one thing is clear: As soon as the settlement is final, it will be time to put that money to work. 

We need our leaders to make sure that every dime of this settlement is used as it is intended: to address oil spill impacts and repair long-standing ecosystem damage. We cannot afford to wait any longer. The Gulf ecosystem is the backbone of the local economy and our primary defense from storms during hurricane season. 

This settlement, which promises to be the largest environmental settlement in American history, is an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate and expand the response to the devastating harm caused by the spill, and to build lasting resilience into the essential ecosystems of the Gulf.

We are especially encouraged that the settlement will put special emphasis on restoring health to the Mississippi River Delta and its coastal wetlands. We also urge leaders in NOAA and other agencies to leverage resources from this settlement to restore marine resources.”

A recent infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:

  • A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.
  • A previous NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.
  • Recent studies estimate an unprecedented number of birds (upwards of 1 million) died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.
  • A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.
  • A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.

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NOAA Study Confirms BP Oil Spill Led to Dolphin Deaths in Northern Gulf of Mexico

May 20, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 5 Years Later, BP Oil Disaster, Media Resources, NOAA, Reports, Science

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

NOAA Study Confirms BP Oil Spill Led to Dolphin Deaths in Northern Gulf of Mexico 

Leading Conservation Groups Call on BP to Accept Responsibility for Continued Environmental Damage

(New Orleans, LA—May 20, 2015) Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a peer-reviewed study confirming that the 2010 Gulf oil disaster contributed to an increase in dolphin deaths in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Examining dolphins, including those in Barataria Bay, La. – an area hit particularly hard with heavy oil in 2010 – scientists found that contaminants from petroleum in BP oil caused lung and adrenal lesions that led to death in these dolphins.

In response, national and local conservation groups working on Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast restoration, including Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, issued the following statement:

“BP has spent millions of dollars trying to dodge responsibility and convince the American public that wildlife and habitat in the Gulf were minimally impacted by its hundreds of millions of gallons of oil spilled in 2010. Just two months ago, BP marked the fifth anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster by releasing a report claiming the Gulf had largely recovered from the spill.

“Despite BP’s best claims, this new NOAA study definitively links the increased dolphin deaths in Barataria Bay with the 2010 Gulf oil disaster and is yet another example of the extensive and destructive impact that BP’s oil unleashed on the people, wildlife and environment of the Gulf. Additional scientific research conducted through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment indicates that dolphins – a top predator – are experiencing impacts from BP’s oil and are still dying at higher than normal rates due to oil exposure in the Gulf ecosystem.

“Last fall, BP was found to be grossly negligent for its actions in the Gulf oil disaster. This study is a stark reminder that the oil is still in the Gulf, it’s still causing sickness and death in some species and it’s still affecting the entire ecosystem. It’s time for BP to stop denying the true impacts of the spill and accept responsibility for its actions, so that meaningful restoration can proceed.”

 Background:

Since the BP oil disaster 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.

A recent infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:

  • A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.
  • A previous NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.
  • Recent studies estimate 1,000,000 birds died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.
  • Modeling for a recent stock assessment projected that between 20,000 and 60,000 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in 2010 as a result of the spill.
  • A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.
  • A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.
  • A recent survey found that 70 percent of Americans believe BP should pay maximum fines under the Clean Water Act for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

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Following the oil spill, new science and research efforts develop in the Gulf of Mexico

May 5, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 5 Years Later, BP Oil Disaster, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Science

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund

This is the final post in a series about Gulf oil spill early coastal restoration funding and projects. Be sure to check out parts one, two and three.

In addition to environmental restoration projects and programs, four different science programs have been created through oil-spill related funding streams. See the info boxes for details on each program.

Because these programs began developing around the same time and around the same general topics – the Gulf of Mexico, ecosystem restoration and oil and gas production – there is often a lot of confusion about what these programs do and how they are different. We are here to help!

gomri

noaa

 

 

 

 

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How are the areas of focus in each of these science programs different?

There are three broad areas of focus that all of these programs collectively address:

  • Ecosystems & the environment
  • The human element
  • Offshore oil development & the environment

However, there are key distinctions between each program and how they address these broader topics.

Ecosystems & the environment

Based on the statutory language in the RESTORE Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) science program covers all marine and estuarine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. The Centers of Excellence (CoE) programs are more narrowly focused on coastal and deltaic systems. Both of these programs also include fisheries, with CoE programs being limited to coastal fisheries but also covering coastal wildlife.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) program broadly addresses protection of environmental resources, while the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) does not have a directive to concentrate on specific ecosystems or species.

GoMRI does, however, have an explicit focus on ecosystem recovery. The CoE programs can emphasize ecosystem restoration and sustainability, and NAS has interpreted language in the settlement agreements to include restoration of the environment and ecosystem services under their program as well.

The NOAA program is supposed to support ecosystem sustainability and restoration “to the maximum extent practicable.” There is a focus on ecosystem management in the current science plan, but this program is not specifically designed around restoration science.

The human element

The BP oil disaster also has had a great impact on human communities. Both the NAS program and GoMRI are investigating human and public health issues that have developed in the wake of the spill. This includes socioeconomic research as well as behavioral, mental and social well-being. CoE programs can address economic and commercial development in the Gulf region, with a focus on sustainable and resilient growth.

Offshore oil development & the environment

Throughout the Gulf Coast and particularly in Louisiana, the oil and gas industry is an important economic driver and employer. But offshore oil and gas production needs to be done responsibly, for both the people and environment of the Gulf.

Safe and sustainable offshore energy development is something on which CoEs can focus. The NAS program is will be addressing oil system safety and GoMRI will be developing technology related to oil spill response and remediation.

GoMRI’s primary focus is on the impacts of oil and dispersants on Gulf ecosystems and organisms as well as the physical and chemical questions surrounding oil and dispersants, such as where did the oil go and how has the oil and dispersants been degrading.

Are all of these programs investing the same kinds of science?diagram

As with the areas of focus, there is a lot of overlap in the types of science activities that these programs are targeting, but there are a few important differences.

The obvious commonality among all four programs is research, which is not surprising as they are all science-focused endeavors.

GoMRI, CoEs and the NAS program also all have some focus on technology and development. This means that some of the science and research that these programs fund will be targeted towards developing new technologies, products or procedures.

The NOAA and NAS programs, as well as CoEs, will invest in monitoring. As discussed in this previous blog post, the BP oil spill highlighted the lack of coordinated, comprehensive monitoring throughout the Gulf region. These programs will fund research into what monitoring does exist throughout the Gulf and explore options and opportunities for implementing monitoring programs.

Even among the distinguishing types of activities these programs will pursue, there are areas of convergence. The NAS program has a mandate to focus on education & training; CoEs on mapping the Gulf of Mexico; and the NOAA program on data collection and fisheries pilot programs. However, training and pilot programs may find overlap with development initiatives. Similarly, data collection and mapping are both important activities strongly related to monitoring. With so many intersections between and among programs, it is essential that these programs communicate with one another.

What’s missing?

With everything these four science programs are doing, it may be hard to believe that anything is lacking. But there are two very important things missing from these collective efforts.

One is formal coordination among programs. Over the last few years, as these programs have begun developing, there has been copious discussion about not duplicating efforts among programs. However, there has been little conversation about devising specific, formal coordination mechanisms to make sure that such duplication does not happen.

Development and implementation of formal coordination mechanisms would also allow programs to take advantage of overlap, by providing points of discussion for complementary or parallel endeavors, particularly those that might span ecosystem boundaries or involve large-scale research or monitoring.

The second missing piece is a means for integrating findings into restoration activities, like those discussed here. Although this will require work beyond the four programs examined here, these science programs should make every effort to ensure that results from their funded research and activities are publicly accessible and readily communicated to decision-makers.

These science programs may not be constructing restoration projects, but the results from their research and other activities may have important implications for restoration efforts now and in the future.

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