Yesterday the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement awarded Royal Dutch Shell PLC the first deep-water exploration permit since the BP disaster last year, which sent some 4.9 million barrels of oil and up to 500,000 tons of methane into the Gulf of Mexico over three months.
“Shell’s submission has satisfied the heightened environmental standards that we are now applying and I am confident that other operators can satisfy the same standards,” said Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
More permits were likely to be issued over the next few weeks according to Bromwich. Still environmentalists remained skeptical about the government’s approval of the drilling permit.
“Pressure to drill is clouding Secretary Salazar’s meaningful review of offshore drilling,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity. “While Interior has admitted that environmental review was inadequate before the BP oil spill, it nonetheless just approved new deepwater drilling before completing the full environmental impact statement that it has promised to prepare.”
Bromwich admitted to the Wall Street Journal that “other operators” have “with surprising and disturbing speed […] seemed all-too-ready to shrug off Deepwater Horizon as a complete aberration, a perfect storm, one in a million.”
At the same time, oil tar balls from an unknown source drifted ashore in Louisiana over the weekend. Officials are currently testing the balls to determine the source. However, earlier sheen spotted on the water that was taken for oil is likely river sediment, according to the Coast Guard.
The US consumes more oil than any other country in the world. In 2007 the US consumed over 20 million barrels of oil everyday: nearly three times as much as the number two consumer, China. For decades the US has focused on producing and importing more oil, instead of increasing efficiency or lowering consumption.
(02/28/2011) Every year a few baby dolphins in the Gulf don’t make it and are found on the shores of the Gulf, but this year something is different. To date, 24 baby dolphins have been found dead in Alabama and Georgia, some are stillborn, others aborted fetuses. Researchers, who say death-toll is ten times the average, are currently studying the dead porpoises for clues to cause. These could include colder-than-average waters, algal blooms, disease, or the incident in the back of everyone’s mind: the BP oil spill last year.
(02/21/2011) Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia has seen the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and the view wasn’t pretty. Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Joye told the conference that she found places where oil lay on the Gulf floor nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters) thick. Joye’s findings contradict rosier pictures of the overall damage caused by the 2010 BP oil spill, including a recent statement by Kenneth Feinberg, the US government czar for oil compensation, that the Gulf would largely recover by next year.
(12/20/2010) Below is a quick review of some of the biggest environmental stories of 2010: Climate change rears it ugly head; Oil spill in the Gulf; Agreement to save global biodiversity; Illegal logging crisis in Madagascar; REDD kicks off in Indonesia; Brazil deforestation falls to its lowest level; Hungary’s red sludge; Nestle caves to social media activists; New mammals galore’ and Global climate framework back on the table?