oil spill

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.

EPA allows experts to comment on oil spill; this looks like progress

We believe in giving credit where credit is due. And so after our recent outrage about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's news conferences where reporters were forbidden to identify government officials who briefed journalists, we today were pleasantly surprised by an EPA news conference that's back in the real world.

Specifically, when EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson did a phone-in presser on the use of dispersants at BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the notice specifically listed the names and titles of lower-ranking EPA staffers who would appear and provide information to the public: Paul Anasta, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development; and Dana Tulis, acting director of EPA's Office of Emergency Management. Jane Lubchenco, the Department of Commerce undersecretary in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also was on the call, along with Dave Westerholm, director of NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration.

Thank you, EPA! This is as it should be: Public officials appear at a news conference tell the journalists what they know (and who they are). Then, that information gets transmitted to the public.

Public officials who make statements to the public need to be held accountable for what they say, which can't happen when they journalists don't even know their names, as happened at the press conference last week on EPA's new rules for handling toxic coal ash. This was highlighted in an excellent story about the whole flap by Curtis Brainerd of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Let's hope today's news conference is the start of a trend.

-- Robert McClure

UN timber deal would OK “a new form of colonialism," critics charge

By Alexander Kelly

COPENHAGEN – Clayton Thomas-Muller hails from Ontario, Canada -- a First World nation that’s loaded with timber. Ana Filippini comes from nearly the opposite end of the Western Hemisphere, Uruguay, a developing country with vast grasslands known as pampas.

Despite the differences in their homelands, both made their way here to deliver a message to a United Nations conference on climate change:

Your plans to save the Earth could kill our people.

Specifically, they fear for indigenous people who depend on natural forests and grasslands.

A United Nations proposal being negotiated here this week to govern cutting of forests – which accounts for an estimated one-fifth of the human-caused global warming – fails to distinguish between natural and manufactured forests. It’s an omission that would enable timber corporations to log virtually any intact forest on the planet, replacing it with immense swaths of industrial farmland containing only one type of tree, critics charge.

An indigenous Brazilian man addresses a forum on deforestation and native peoples at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen that ends Friday. InvestigateWest photo by Mark Malijan. 

Although the world is likely to hear on Friday that an agreement on slowing deforestation is one of the few bright spots to emerge from two weeks of UN talks on a climate treaty here, indigenous activists see the agreement as anything but a success.

Byline: 

B.C. natives: Freighter grounding shows folly of shipping tar sands oil through coastal rainforest

A freighter's grounding in the labyrinthine back bays of northern British Columbia shows what a dumb idea it would be to ship oil from Alberta's tar sands area through the area in the Great Bear Rainforest, a band of natives says.

The Gitga'at First Nation pointed to the grounding of the 41,000-ton Petersfield, loaded with soda ash and lumber products, as evidence that supertankers carrying oil have no place in the fragile backcountry waters. The vessel is nearly as long as two football fields.

The best story on the whole affair comes from Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail, who traced it to a problem with the vessel's gyroscope that affected a number of systems on the bridge, including steering.  The Gitga'at observed in a press release:

The ship currently docked at Kitimat looking like a prizefighter with a broken nose is an ugly reminder of the threat posed by proposed pipelines and tanker traffic to the territory of the Gitga'at First Nation.

Canadian and American environmentalists have long  complained that developing Alberta's tar sands -- aka "oil sands" -- would unleash far too many greenhouse gases

Enbridge Pipelines, meanwhile, is planning  construct a pipeline to ship oil from Alberta to British Columbia, where it could be loaded onto tankers for transport to refineries on the West coast. Or, as became apparent recently when a Chinese government-owned firm bought into tar-sands development, the stuff could be shipped all the way to China.