Noble Energy Inc. won the first U.S. deep-water drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since BP Plc’s oil spill 10 months ago, and regulators said they expect to approve more applications.
The Obama administration halted deep-water exploration after BP Plc’s Macondo well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April, causing the biggest U.S. offshore oil spill. The top U.S. drilling regulator said today that Houston-based Noble Energy was the first company to meet new requirements for safety and spill control. Oil industry executives, lawmakers and officials from Gulf States had criticized the administration’s drilling delay, saying thousands of jobs in the region were at stake.
The discovery of more than 80 dead dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico is raising fresh concerns about the effect on sea life from last year’s massive BP oil spill. The dead dolphins began appearing in mid-January along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the United States. Although none of the carcasses appeared to show outward signs of oil contamination, all were being examined as possible casualties of the petrochemicals that fouled the seawater and seabed after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded last April. The resulting “gusher” produced the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, releasing nearly five billion barrels of crude oil before it was capped in July.
The remains of 77 animals – nearly all bottlenose dolphins – have been discovered on islands, in marshes and on beaches along 200 miles of coastline. This figure is more than 10 times the number normally found washed up around this time of year, which is calving season for some 2,000 to 5,000 dolphins in the region. One of the more disturbing aspects of the deaths is that nearly half – 36 animals so far – have been newborn or stillborn dolphin calves. In January 2009 and 2010, there were no reports of stranded calves, and because this is the first calving season since the BP disaster, scientists are concerned that the spill may be a cause.
The spill was the greatest ever in the US – 20 times as big as the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989 – and initially it was thought it would prove the worst US environmental disaster, imperiling the rich wildlife of the gulf’s semi-tropical waters.
By the end of last year about 7,000 dead creatures had been collected, including more than 6,000 birds and 600 sea turtles. But this compares with the figure of perhaps 250,000 seabirds killed as a result of the March 1989 Exxon disaster.
In February, Kenneth Feinberg, the head of the government’s BP claims fund, said that research he had commissioned showed that the Gulf would almost fully recover by 2012. A few days later, Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia told the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s that far more oil remained on the bottom of the Gulf than earlier estimates said should be there.
BP itself appears to have changed tactics, abandoning its public relations strategy to one more suited to courtroom battles. The oil giant has backtracked from promises made in November to funnel early payment to Louisiana to help rebuild oyster beds. In order to keep the oil offshore, the state flushed some beds with freshwater, which killed the oysters. Now the company is implying that it shouldn’t pay for restoration because the fresh water, and not BP’s oil did the damage.
Title: Noble Energy Wins First U.S. Deep-Water Oil-Drilling Permit
Source: Bloomburg.com, 2/28/11
Author: Katarzyna Klimasinska – Feb 28, 2011
Title: Oil Spill Link Suspected As Dead Dolphins Wash Ashore Independent: 3/1/11
Author: Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Title: The Health of the Gulf: Fishermen and Oilmen Clash
Source: Alternet.org, 3/11/11
Author: Barry Estabrook
Student Researcher: Cameron Cleveland, Sonoma State University
Professional Evaluator: Brian Mulvey, Marine Biologist