By Matt Walker
It took three months, but there’s finally good news. Not only does last week’s new cap seem to be holding, the Feds say a relief tunnel should finally reach the Deepwater Horizon’s broken well by the weekend, meaning “the gusher could be snuffed for good within two weeks.” So why don’t we feel better? Maybe it’s the fact that the “seepage” detected near the site is coming from an old well — and that there are 27,000 such wells around the Gulf, none of which are monitored for leaks.
No wonder a congressional committee is investigating the Department of the Interior’s effectiveness in regulation efforts. So far, they’ve determined that “the cop on the beat was off-duty for nearly a decade,” citing serious mistakes under Presidents Bush and Obama, beginning with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force, which put energy production and profits way before public safety. On Monday, former Secretary Dirk Kempthorne basically admitted they never considered such a worst-case scenario, but promised that a “very real consequence of the Deepwater Horizon accident is that these historical assumptions will be forever changed.” (Hopefully, that includes the historical assumption that drilling is safe, and that you can trust Big Oil and Big Gov to tell the truth.) Ironically, on the same day the DOI was crying crocodile tears about how unforeseeable all this stuff was, yet another disaster was occurring halfway around the world. One of China’s biggest ports, Dalian, shut down when a pipeline explosion resulted in a 71 square mile slick. Just the latest tiny example of how oil wrecks, blazes and blows up the environment from the Amazon to Africa to Alabama, where ocean water is literally exploding.
That’s right. Exploding water samples. Even as tourists are hopping back in the supposedly clean ocean, tests across Alabama are coming up with anywhere from three to 50 times more petro-chemicals than they should — some samples literally taken from kids’ tidal pools. And the heaviest beach concentrations were pulled from where SURFING magazine spent International Surfing Day this year, the same stretch where the Governor and town officials were doing no tests of their own, then telling folks to “use their best judgment” when it came time to swim. The same stretch where a New York Times piece reports chronic health problems in more than 20 percent of the workers.
Which is why Gulf Coast surfers are still applying pressure to both the federal and state governments. Hands Across the Sand founder Dave Rauschkolb is in Tallahassee this week for Florida’s special session that will hopefully ban offshore drilling in the Sunshine State altogether, saying “I think it’s incredibly important that the people have the opportunity to decide this.” (Let’s hope they can actually bring the ban to a vote; some fear the Republican-dominated house will table the issue.) And last week, Surfrider’s Emerald Coast Chapter head Mike Sturdivant asked the United States Surgeon General to assuage his fears over dispersants but got little more than vague sympathy and pleas for patience while they fix things up.
But even if they do stop oil, the health and financial problems will continue to flow for years to come.
And that’s when the drama begins: the legal battles. And BP’s ready to play dirty. Already hit for $4 billion in cleanup and restitution costs — and facing up to $18 billion in fines — BP aims to keep the future bill down by spending a little cash now. (And with $17 billion earned in the last year alone, they can afford to.) Not only is the company buying up scientists — including attempting to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university — to produce testimony down the road, the whole industry is beefing up their lobbying efforts — with the American Petroleum lobby nearly doubling its quarterly output to more than $2 million. So while Alaska’s Valdez commission laments that there were no lessons learned back in ‘89 as far as prevention, oversight and recovery — Big Oil certainly remembers the tactics to come out squeaky clean in a court of law.
Which is why, as this crisis finishes its third month, we once more urge you to do some lobbying on your own behalf — and the whole surfing community’s — by calling the White House (202-456-1111). Tell Obama thanks for the new National Ocean policy to protect America’s oceans and Great Lakes — and maybe suggest part of that plan be a federal moratorium, so that the same type of disaster never happens again. After all, before we fuck up a whole new stretch of coast, shouldn’t we have to Un-fuck the Gulf?
NSFW = Not Safe For Work. We do not condone dirty f—king language.