BP finds success in reports about its failure
By Rocky Kistner, Bridge the Gulf
When my colleagues released NRDC's annual Testing the Waters report documenting
pollution problems across the nation's coastlines, the last thing they
expected was this jaw-dropping Orwellian tweet to pop up on their
Yes that's right. BP tweeted NRDC's report and said it shows improvements in Gulf coastal areas after being tainted with globs of 170 million gallons of crude spewed from BP's well last year.
Problem is, that's not what NRDC's report stated. Here's what it really said:
More than a year later, the impacts of the BP oil
disaster -- the worst in U.S. history -- still linger in the Gulf of
Mexico. Over the course of two months, approximately 170 million gallons
of oil gushed into Gulf waters, washing up on approximately 1,000 miles
of shoreline. As of the end of January, 83 miles of shoreline remained
heavily or moderately oiled, while tar balls and weathered oil continue
to wash ashore.
As a result, many beaches in the region have issued oil spill
advisories, closures, and notices since the disaster began more than a
year ago. As of June 15, 2011, there had been a total of 9,474 days of
oil-related closings, advisories and notices at Gulf coast beaches.
Clean-up crews are still at work as oil continues to wash ashore in
Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi. And four beaches in
Louisiana are still closed and three in Florida have remained under
notice since the disaster started. A state-by-state look at oil spill
notices, advisories, and closures at Gulf Coast beaches from the
beginning of the spill through June 15, 2011 can be found online here: http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/gulf.pdf.
Here's how the CBS News Early Show reported on NRDC's report:
"One hundred and seventy million gallons of oil flowed
into the Gulf as a result of the BP oil spill," Jarvis said on 'The
Early Show.' "It affected 1,000 plus miles of shoreline, and in
particular, it really hit Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida --
those were the worst impacted but Louisiana was number one."
Louisiana alone, Jarvis said, estimates losses could exceed $295
million by 2013, according to the state's Department of Tourism.
"That is a huge number," Jarvis remarked. "Alabama has seen its beach
traffic go down 41 percent. Mississippi has seen traffic go down, and
in particular Mississippi, for example, they rely on revenue from the
gambling industry, and they've lost more than $100 million, they expect
from all of this."
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that BP would try to put such
an absurdly positive spin on the beach report. After all, this is the
same company that made some of the more memorable corporate PR blunders
in history. At the forefront are former CEO Tony Hayward's mind-boggling
comments about environmental impacts being "very very modest" and his
ponderings about getting "my life back." See NRDC's excellent slideshow
presentation Yours Truly, BP.
But BP's beach tweet is at odds with what some local residents say
they see almost daily. The beaches near Grand Isle, Louisiana are still impacted by tar balls and globs of oil that are buried on the bottom offshore. It's unclear when the beach ever will get back to normal, as I discovered last spring.
Along the coastline of Mississippi, residents walking the beaches near Gulfport still spot dead dolphins and sea turtles washing up on the beach, something they say was highly unusual before the BP oil well blow out.
Gulfport resident Laurel Lockamy has photographed lots of dead sea
life strewn across the beaches in recent months. Recently she discovered
a foul smelling patch of ocean water linked to wastewater discharge
near Gulfport beach. She also found out the Mississippi DEQ still has an
oil impact statement
on its website that advises people not swim in the area 24 hours after a
significant rainfall event, something Laurel and many others were
unaware of. Locals say there are no signs posted directly on beaches
where swimmers would be informed about those health threats.
Swimmers aren't the only ones still at risk. Gulf fishermen say the
taint of BP's blowout continues to impact everything they do. They
report shrimp catches in some areas are as bad as they've ever seen,
while seafood market prices have hit rock bottom. No one wants to buy
their seafood after the disaster last year, they complain. Many
fishermen also say they have not been compensated by BP for their losses, despite promises made by BP claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg.
Recently, fishermen rallied
at the Louisiana's capitol steps to protest the low market prices and
lack of compensation by BP. On top of these complaints, shrimpers also
are blamed by some environmentalists and NOAA fisheries experts as the main cause of record sea turtle deaths over the past year. That's something shrimpers vehemently deny and say the turtle deaths instead are related to the BP oil disaster.
Many fishermen have no idea how they will make it through the year if
conditions stay the same. It can cost them more in gas and
expenses than what they make for their catch. "They just like to kick us
when we're down," said one Louisiana fisherman. "That's something we're
used to. We don't have any choice but to just keep trying to make a
living like we've always done."
But it will be years until they really know if their fishery has
survived the gusher of oil unleashed by BP and its drilling partners.
The beaches may appear clean to some, but what's going on underneath the
water is a different story. Scientists continue to investigate
the true damage caused by this disaster, a process that won't end soon.
Meanwhile, drilling in the Gulf continues to expand while experts
warn Congress has yet to pass oil drilling safety legislation recommended by the presidential oil spill commission earlier this year.
But opposition to new legislation by oil companies and
their political allies is powerful. Well-funded oil industry PR
campaigns will continue to try to deflect attention away from negative
realities on the ground and at sea. As the tweet about NRDC's beach
report shows, BP will continue to claim success in the Gulf cleanup,
even when new reports demonstrate its failures.
(Photo of cleanup workers on Louisiana's Grand Isle by Betty Doud.)