Deepwater Disaster: Day 86


Workers hired by BP take a needed respite in the Gulf. Photo: Patrick Ruddy

By Matt Walker

“We decided that the process may benefit from additional analysis."

That's how Admiral Thad Allen — the big federal cheese overseeing the Gulf Coast meltdown — explained today's decision to pause all containment efforts in the Gulf. Just a few days ago, BP had put on a fancy new "top hat"that would close off the well leading to the Deepwater Horizon and recover the oil. Now the Fed wants BP to verify that the casing, or the piping in the well, is intact and that the oil would stay contained if BP shuts the well in. Meanwhile, they've also stopped drilling both relief wells, dampening the impending party for what looked like the first big success in nearly three months. Now the oil spills unimpeded — for a total of 92,720,000 gallons and counting. Also climbing is the animal body count: 1,387 birds, 444 turtles, 53 dolphins and one sperm whale — most of which, for all you dispersant-phobes, show no visible signs of oil contamination.

One figure that's not endlessly flowing is the amount of cash BP's paying out, as the company is "becoming increasingly stringent with its demands for documentation from victims filing claims." (In other words, bring your receipts and be prepared to wait.) They also rejected Florida's request for an additional $50 million in marketing money to promote the state’s tourism. (Apparently, they need the ad cash to rebuild their own image.) But in the wake of another successful Jimmy Buffett concert (is there really such a thing? they are considering doing some more shows to convince folks to visit Alabama's oil-slicked beaches, suggesting "country singers Faith Hill and Zac Brown and soft rocker Jack Johnson." (Call us when you got a Marley-Hendrix-Cobain-Nowell reunion tour.)

Of course, the idea that flocks of drunken Parrot-heads may being your sole tourism market is making other coastal towns increasingly scared. No wonder state legislatures are taking action. In Florida, Governor Crist called a special legislative session to consider a constitutional ban on offshore oil drilling. Meanwhile, NC voted "yes" on a bill that would eliminate a cap on damages the state could collect from BP in the event an oil slick arrives.

And they're right to be nervous, as the federal government is looking more and more sketchy — dare we say, slick — each week. According to one report, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is hoarding vast amounts of raw data that researchers say could help the public and scientists better understand the extent of the damage. (BP, of course, gets full access.) And in case you were hoping the Prez's new, improved, Deepwater Moratorium 2.0 was the prelude to some real action to stop drilling entirely — or at least the first step to not expanding drilling in new areas — think again. On Monday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama is committed to deepwater drilling once the practice is "determined to be safe."

Our question: Hasn't the practice been "determined to be safe" before, only to blow up in our faces every 20 years? And just who gets to "determine" these things? Seems to us, the very logic behind offshore drilling overall would "benefit from additional analysis."

In the meantime, follow Laird's PSA lead by screaming "BP, you bastards!". Then, call the White House (202-456-1111) and do the same. And if you got a spare buck, cough up some dough to help Emerald Coast Surfrider do dispersant testing — and help keep your Gulf Coast surfing brethren from coughing up blood.

…and for those who deal best with tragedy through satire: