Transocean demands federal documents on Deepwater Horizon blowout. The oil's still affecting Gulf beaches; you just can't see it. The oysters in Barataria Bay aren't coming back. The fish are probably screwed too. Gov. Jindal signs restoration bill. Mr. Feinberg writes a book. Kevin Costner yawn file. Rare sea turtle nest found on Mississippi beach! (Hey, some good news!) And two music videos - one new, and one an oldie-but-goodie...

You are in the current Gulf Watchers BP Catastrophe - AUV #590. AUV #589 is here.

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This is complicity between the US government and BP, pure and simple. Stop it, guys. Release the damn documents. All of them...

Transocean demands BP release employee statements related to the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

The Switzerland-based drilling services company Transocean has asked a federal judge in New Orleans to release a group of documents related to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, stating that BP's claim of privacy is invalid. The challenge involves BP's assertion of a ‘confidentiality promise’ privilege conveyed by the US government, making the documents immune from the discovery process.

Transocean maintains that the federal government is wrong to convey immunity to BP from discovery on the documents.

“Transocean continues to object to the confidentiality promise privilege claims that the United States has not agreed to withdraw or otherwise limit,” Transocean lawyers said in the filing. “Transocean believes the confidentiality promise privilege does not apply to the Oil Spill Commission’s investigation, and even if it does, the United States has waived its protection.”
The US government's position on the documents stems from confidentiality protections usually afforded in investigations of US military aircraft crashes, but Transocean is demanding that statements from BP employees on the rig be made available to its lawyers, and that CP protections are not vaild in this case.
The request is part of a larger battle for information over the government’s role in decisions made after the Macondo well exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Justice Department released 64 documents in the beginning of June in response to an earlier Transocean challenge that it was invalidly withholding 314 documents under a confidentiality claim. Transocean has said that many of these documents were produced only in redacted form.
Transocean asserts that the Justice Department has not applied the same level of protections to "official" statements by BP, and by doing so waives its confidentiality protection.
“Curiously, the United States released all ‘CP’ documents containing BP or Woods Hole statements, but continues to withhold the majority of documents containing statements of its own employees and contractors made under the same ‘assurances of confidentiality’,” the filing stated.
The truth will never out if all the documents are not released. BP is hiding the truth - that they knew the damn thing would blow sky high -  and the Justice Department is providing cover.

Release the documents now...

Digging into the sand on Gulf beaches used to reveal a complex web of lifeforms - some of which you couldn't see without a microscope. Nematodes and other tiny worms, single-celled animals, and a variety of fungi are the lower end of the ecological chain on most beaches. But a look under the surface of many areas on the Gulf now shows a drastically diminished collection...

BP oil spill disrupted microbes on Gulf Coast beaches, new research shows.

In a study conducted by researchers with the University of New Hampshire's Hubbard Center for Genome Studies and its partners found that many of the organisms common in beach sand have all but disappeared, and have been replaced by a few species that can use the degrading oil as food.

"We went from this very diverse community with an abundance of different organisms to this really (impoverished) community that was really dominated by a couple of fungal species," said Holly Bik, a computational biologist and lead author of the study, who recently moved from the University of New Hampshire to the University of California at Davis.

The results were especially shocking for Dauphin Island, Bik said, because the post-spill samples were taken from what looked like a pristine beach.

"If you dug down in the sand, maybe you could find a discolored layer of oil in the beach, but there were no tarballs," she said. "It was like a ghost town, no tourists, but if you'd been in a media blackout for the previous six months, you wouldn't have even known there had been a spill."

To determine the amount of life in a sample of sand, researchers basically whirl the sample in a blender, then extract the total amount of DNA that remains. The pre-spill samples contained a rich variety of life. But post-spill samples from Dauphin Island (Alabama) and Grand Isle (Louisiana) - two of the more heavily-oiled locations - told a different story, with the total amount of DNA greatly lessened, and from far fewer species.

Although Bik said that the process of mechanical cleaning could have disrupted the variety to a degree, the fact remains that the ecology of the beaches has apparently changed radically, and more research is needed to determine if the change seems permanent.

"It was this dramatic impact, but without more information, it's hard to place into a bigger context," she said. "A year and a half later, who knows what the community would look like now if we went to the beaches and sampled again."

Bik and her colleagues did take samples last March, a year after the spill, at several of the beaches, but the DNA data from those samples won't be published until the end of the year.

Still, Bik said the study provides additional clues to unraveling the short-term and long-term effects of the spill.

"Even though the oil's gone, it might lead to some very long-term and severe implications for the Gulf ecosystem," she said.

Not good. Not good at all. Severe damage at the bottom of the food chain does not bode well for anything farther up said chain... and ultimately, that includes people...

And something looks like it is screwing up the oysters too... (h/t Yasuragi)

Some oysters not regrowing post-spill.

It's been two years since more than half of the state's oyster grounds were wiped out during the BP oil spill, and oysters in some of Louisiana's most important harvest areas aren't coming back.

State officials say they're still investigating why there hasn't been a strong reproductive cycle since the spill in grounds in Barataria Bay and east and west of the Mississippi River, including some areas that were affected by oil. Toxicology tests are being done by the state to see if the problem is linked to the Gulf oil spill.

Those oyster grounds account for 50 percent of Louisiana's oyster production, said Mike Voisin, owner of Motivatit Seafood in Houma and a member of the state's Oyster Advisory Committee.

“If not for Terrebonne, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes, we'd be in pretty bad trouble,” said Al Sunseri, owner of P&J Oyster Co. in New Orleans, also a member of the Oyster Advisory Committee. “The main public oyster grounds in the eastern part of the state have been almost nonproductive.”

Many oysters were killed when the state opened up freshwater diversions on the Mississippi River to push oil out of wetlands. Oysters need salty water to survive. A river flood in 2011 affected more oyster grounds. But oyster industry officials say historically, oysters have come back strong after a freshwater flood. And that hasn't happened.

The state's oyster industry employs about 3,500 Louisianans and has an estimated $300 million annual impact on the state economy.

Some oyster harvesters say that the only difference between an influx of fresh water during natural flooding and the opening of floodgates to push oil from the marshes is the chemicals present in the second situation.

Oysters can be exposed to oil and dispersants through contact, feeding and respiration in all life stages, according to state officials. Adult oysters may also experience impaired growth and reproduction when exposed to oil. Oil exposure can also affect egg and larvae survival. Or oil exposure might cause changes to the environment that support oyster growth, such as reduced water quality.

Oysters spawned during the spill and the shellfish's larvae would have moved with currents on the water surface and been unable to avoid oil and dispersants, according to state officials. At its largest, the oil slick covered a significant portion of the area's spawning grounds.

Oysters were exposed to water quality changes during the spill from the opening of freshwater diversions that may have also had impacts on adult oysters, their eggs and larvae and on the environment that supports them.

Sunseri said oyster reproduction problems are linked to the spill, because in the past, oyster populations have come back strong in the year after a river flood.

“I absolutely believe it,” Sunseri said. “You can go back historically and look at the landings following the Bonnet Carre Spillway openings. You've always found that there have been a rejuvenation of all the fisheries and that didn't occur.”

And it's not just the microscopic stuff, or the mutant shrimp, or the lack of oysters...the fish are having problems too.

Study: BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill could still be damaging fish.

Oil residue from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be causing potentially lethal defects in fish, according to a Smith College biologist.

“This oil is not gone yet. This disaster is not over. There are embryos right now that are still getting exposed to that oil,” said Michael J.F. Barresi, who, along with students at Smith College and the University of Massachusetts, conducted a study of the effects of oil residue of the type and in the concentrations that existed in the Gulf after the spill.

An article about the study and their findings appeared in a recent issue of BMC Biology, an online journal. Barresi was the lead investigator.

Barresi says that it may be twenty years before the effects of the spill are known. He may be too optimistic with that time frame.

Louisiana gov. Bobby Jindal signs bill directing Gulf oil spill money to coastal restoration.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed legislation that will direct money Louisiana receives from the Deepwater-Horizon-BP oil spill to coastal protection and restoration programs. Jindal's office said late Thursday that he signed House Bill 838 by Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette, one of the last bills passed in the waning hours of the legislative session that ended June 4. The bill became effective when Jindal signed it.

Champagne's bill calls for any money the state receives from the federal government as a result of fines imposed under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, associated with the April 20, 2010 spill, to be placed in the state treasury and used for "integrated coastal protection efforts, including coastal restoration; hurricane protection and improving the resiliency of the ... coastal area affected" by the spill.

Backers of the bill said its passage will show Congress that the state is serious about using the money for coastal needs.

The bill was initially designed to allow the Louisiana legislature to "redirect restoration funding to other areas". That bill was to be placed on the ballot and submitted to voters.  Champagne later stripped the bill of the redirection wording and the ballot initiative clause.

However, the Senate does retain the ability to rewrite the bill with a simple majority vote in future sessions.

The Legislature giveth, and the Legislature can (later) taketh away... The Mississippi legislature does that all the time...

Mr. Feinberg, do you have a horse?

Ken Feinberg says in new book that nothing prepared him for oil spill claims.

Former oil spill claims czar Kenneth Feinberg is coming out with a book later this month in which he admits that none of his acclaimed and varied prior experience overseeing public compensation funds prepared him for what he encountered on the Gulf Coast. Advance publicity for Feinberg's "Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval" includes snippets from the book.

"In meeting after meeting during the first weeks of the GCCF, I made the ridiculous public pledge that 'the GCCF will pay eligible individual claimants within forty-eight hours and eligible businesses within one week.' Talk about a self-inflicted wound!" Feinberg writes. "Underestimating the volume and complexity of the claims, I promised what I could not possibly deliver. As a result, the GCCF was immediately placed on the defensive."

Apparently his whining is deafening in the book, as he complains that he was not able to hold individual meetings with GCCF clients, which he says was what he "wanted to do" - that he would resolve their claims "personally".

:::cue plaintive notes from diminutive violin:::

"None of my prior assignments in designing and administering public compensation programs prepared me for the GCCF experience," Feinberg concludes in the chapter on his spill claims work. "The BP oil spill taught me new lessons. Without political consensus and bipartisan support, which I benefited from in my earlier work, it is much more difficult to achieve success and secure public approval. The key fundamental ingredient of credibility is called into question. Claimant confidence in the program begins to waver."
"Claimant confidence begins to waiver?" No shit, Sherlock...

Oh, shut the f*ck up, Kenneth. I'd demand that all the profits from your book go to Gulf restoration, but that might only be a buck-eighty or so...

I would never suggest any sort of book burning - ever - but when you find a stack of this tome of drivel in the rock-bottom remainders area at your local book emporium (and it should hit there about a week after its release...) remember it would be a good source of cheap kindling for your fireplace come wintertime.

From the "who gives a shit" category... Kevin wins his lawsuit...

Jury sides with Kevin Costner in BP oil spill lawsuit.


And some good news, because we need it...

Rare sea turtle nest discovered in Mississippi.

The loggerhead - a threatened species of turtle in the Gulf - will get some help from humankind, through an incident of happenstance.

Loggerheads usually nest on barrier island beaches in Mississippi, but a loggerhead emerging to make a nest on a mainland beach is highly unusual - a nest has not been found on a mainland beach for nearly twenty years. (Wonder if that could have been related to oil still in the sand on the barrier islands? I don't know...)

So, now for the happenstance...

On the evening of May 22nd, a camper along the beach observed one of these massive turtles emerge from the water near his tent and lay eggs in the sand. In the morning, he informed a group of Tulane researchers, who then informed volunteers with the Mississippi Coastal Preserve and Audubon Coastal Bird Survey of the discovery. They contacted experts from state and federal agencies, Alabama Sea Turtles, and staff from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS).

Later that day, folks from IMMS and Alabama Sea Turtles met up with the volunteers and the camper. According to Dr. Janet Wright, a Coastal Preserve Habitat Steward and volunteer with the Audubon Coastal Bird Survey, it was “concluded that the nest had a very low chance of success because it was too close to the waterline and was also in an area where many off-road vehicles drive.”

After eggs are laid, there is only a limited time window to safely move them, so, in cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the team took emergency action to excavate and relocate the 109 eggs to a more protected area. As Dr. Wright observed, without the assistance of the camper, “we would not have had this unique record or the chance to hatch loggerhead turtle eggs” on the beach in Jackson County.

Yay, turtles. Long (and safely) may you paddle...

This is the Gulf Restoration Network's new video. Please check it out. The scrolling photos on the left are the people in it; please click on the right for the video...

 Mac Rebennack (Dr. John) and I thank you.

And just because I like it and it's on my playlist this week, and because I still want to see Tony H. perp-walked... Crashing Vor's Hey Tony...

Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:

6-05-12 04:00 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - Court Awards BP Scientists' Private Emails  - BP Catastrophe AUV #589 peraspera
5-22-12 03:00 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - BOP Mandates and "Dangerous" Opt-Outs - BP Catastrophe AUV #588 Lorinda Pike
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.
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