Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mixed News from the Gulf - Updated

BP whistleblowers are reporting that BP is keeping them from working in the daylight, and is secretly spraying Corexit at night. Adm. Thad Allen refuses to totally discount the claims:

An encounter yesterday between Gulf fishermen and a BP flack. Alaskan Riki Ott is seated in the front row, taking notes:

Scientists from both the University of Georgia and the University of South Florida are disputing BP and NOAA claims about the amount of oil that has been accounted for and how it is accounted. Last week the University of South Florida claimed this:

A month after the Deepwater Horizon disaster began, scientists from the University of South Florida made a startling announcement. They had found signs that the oil spewing from the well had formed a 6-mile-wide plume snaking along in the deepest recesses of the gulf.

The reaction that USF announcement received from the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agencies that sponsored their research:

Shut up.

"I got lambasted by the Coast Guard and NOAA when we said there was undersea oil," USF marine sciences dean William Hogarth said. Some officials even told him to retract USF's public announcement, he said, comparing it to being "beat up" by federal officials.

The USF scientists weren't alone. Vernon Asper, an oceanographer at the University of Southern Mississippi, was part of a similar effort that met with a similar reaction. "We expected that NOAA would be pleased because we found something very, very interesting," Asper said. "NOAA instead responded by trying to discredit us. It was just a shock to us."

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, in comments she made to reporters in May, expressed strong skepticism about the existence of undersea oil plumes — as did BP's then-CEO, Tony Hayward.

"She basically called us inept idiots," Asper said. "We took that very personally."

Lubchenco confirmed Monday that her agency told USF and other academic institutions involved in the study of undersea plumes that they should hold off talking so openly about it. "What we asked for, was for people to stop speculating before they had a chance to analyze what they were finding," Lubchenco said. "We think that's in everybody's interest. … We just wanted to try to make sure that we knew something before we speculated about it."

"We had solid evidence, rock solid," Asper said. "We weren't speculating." If he had to do it over again, he said, he'd do it all exactly the same way, despite Lubchenco's ire.

And this week, from the University of Georgia:

Georgia scientists say their analysis shows that most of that BP oil the government said was gone from the Gulf of Mexico is still there.

The scientists say as much as 80 percent of the oil still lurks under the surface. The Georgia team said it is a misinterpretation of data to claim that oil that is dissolved is actually gone. The report from University of Georgia and other scientists came from an analysis of federal estimates.

Earlier this month federal scientists said that only about a quarter of the oil remained and the rest was either removed, dissolved or dispersed.

UPDATE - 4:45 p.m: MSNBC is picking up on the disparities between the White House-BP rosy picture and emerging scientific realities:

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