oil drilling

Keep up with news on BP's oil spill at The Daily Glob, courtesy SEJ

One of the cool fringe benefits of doing a lot of free labor for the Society of Environmental Journalists is that I get to hang out with folks who are doing some really cool stuff. Example: If you want to keep up with the latest on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, check out SEJ's new newsfeed, The Daily Glob.

 

 

 

Keep Up With Gulf Spill News on SEJ's New Daily Glob The story of the tragic Gulf oil spill is getting bigger every day. Keeping up with hourly breaking news, and the spill's causes and consequences, can be overwhelming both to journalists and the general public. The Society of Environmental Journalists has launched a new tracking blog to help you follow the Gulf spill story: The Daily Glob — online at http://dailyglob.sej.org . The site links to an array of the best information sources about the spill and related topics — ranging from the Coast Guard's spill news page, to lists of university spill experts, to the Times-Picayune's spill news portal. It also collects on an hour-by-hour basis, links to the hottest breaking spill news stories from all kinds of media — offering one-stop shopping for all the top stories. The array of news tools will help reporters find and enrich stories. They include mapping tools, infographics, photo and video resources, background information, experts' phone numbers, Congressional hearings, and more. Take a look. — http://dailyglob.sej.org/ — Tell your colleagues. And check back often for more.

Obama finally admits what's been obvious for years: We can't clean up oil spills

Cold comfort for a nation that stands mouth agape at the mind-boggling catastrophe off our southern shore, but today President Obama finally admitted what we and others had been saying for years: America is wholly unprepared for a major oil spill. (And Puget Sound is particularly at risk. More on that in a moment.)

It's just a five-paragraph blurb on The New York Times' website, but in it our nation's highest-ranking civil servant says he made a mistake believing ''the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst case scenarios.'' He went on:

''I was wrong.''

D'ya think? But let's not go too hard on the commander-in-chief, given that every other level of government that's handled the so-called preparations for this massive spill got it wrong as well.

This incredibly dispiriting oil spill continues to leave me a little too slack-jawed to take it on in earnest as a blog topic. But it bears repeating that:

* Skimming oil is largely ineffective, capturing maybe 10 percent of the spilled oil -- if we're lucky.

* Boom is great and useful -- but you can't boom off the whole coast.

* There's a very basic assumption made across the country in planning for the worst-case oil spill: that equipment and workers can be "cascaded in" from other regions of the nation over a period of days to deal with the disaster. 

Post-Deepwater Horizon, it doesn't seem necessary to lay bare the fallacies in this last point.

Federal scientists ordered to do half-baked analysis of Alaskan oil-drilling plans, audit finds

When the Obama administration not long ago went ahead with what could become a major expansion of oil drilling off Alaska's coasts, it did so with full knowledge that its scientists hadn't been able to do a proper environmental review.

That's the upshot from auditors at the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress. And it appears that oil companies' pleas to keep some information secret from the scientists also played a role in the half-baked look at environmental threats, a new GAO report states:

"According to regional staff, this (secrecy) practice has hindered their ability to complete sound environmental analyses."

Those analyses are required under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Although the GAO report just came out, drafts had been available at the Interior Department, which oversees the offshore oil drilling, since sometime before March 1, records show.

The report says some scientists who were sick of being told to do a lousy job on environmental analyses just quit, further complicating the task for doing a first-rate job taking stock of the risks as required under NEPA. Remember, folks, we are talking here about the Obama admnistration, which, as we noted recently, seems reminiscent of the Bush administration on some enviro matters lately. This latest finding flies in the face of President Obama's chest-pounding about how his administration would end the era of arm-twisting government scientists.

Obama's offshore-drilling OK may not be a flip-flop but it's sure Bush-like -- except the Alaska part

Did President Obama do a flip-flop when he opened up vast swaths of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil drilling? It depends on how far back you want to go in the President's record. In the Senate he supported efforts to limit offshore drilling. But as a presidential candidate he came around to accepting at least some offshore drilling as a way to build consensus on the energy issue.

Catharine Richert brings us this analysis for the worthwhile politifact.com website run by the St. Pete Times. Her post is worth a read.

Flip-flop or no, though, it's one of what seem like increasingly more common Obama decisions on the environment that could easily have been made by the George W. Bush administration (but probably not  by the George H.W. Bush team.) Example: On Monday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was going with a Bush-era interpretation of the Clean Air Act that delays a crackdown on regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources such as power plants. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, this will allow construction of another 50 coal-fired plants.

Other thoughts in the aftermath of Obama's drilling decision:

+ I couldn't resist retweeting David Roberts of Grist.org:

"Imagine Obama banning offshore drilling in the vague hope that environmental groups might some day support his bill."

:>)

Arctic elder tells of how oil drilling, climate change threaten her people's survival

Editor's note: Sarah James is an elder of the Gwich'in native people of northern Alaska, inside the Arctic Circle. In Copenhagen for the United Nations climate negotiations, she spoke with InvestigateWest correspondent Alexander Kelly and videographer Blair Kelly, stressing the need to protect the caribou that her people depend on for their very existence.