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Topics: BP buys its very own beach. Oil industry supporter calls BP liars. Blowout preventer findings disputed. BP shareholders concerned about safety. Louisiana parish prepares to sue BP. Tenth deepwater permit issued. Coast Guard takes action against those responsible for March 2011 spill. Cleanup complete on Grand Isle. New Orleans Times-Picayune poll: Do you eat Gulf seafood?  

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This is a milestone. The 500th Gulf Watchers diary. And it is really not something we would like to be doing - it would be much nicer if we never had to start the BP Catastrophe series in the first place, or if the guilty parties had conducted themselves as they should have...if eleven families were not missing loved ones, if far more had not been injured and now have no way to support their families, if the BOP had worked properly, if dispersants had not been used in what may become one of the most serious factors of the spill, if many dolphins, whales, turtles, and other marine life were not dead or dying... if, if, if.

But we are still here, because, for the most part, reporting from the Gulf has dropped off the news radar. The news is still there, but - except for the occasional story that rises above the waves - you will hear and see very little from the regular news media.

We watched the gusher and the ROVs for months; watched the cap finally set, and - like the final scene in a movie - the ROV camera pulled back, the capped wellhead of the deadly Macondo 252 faded into the murky darkness, and we were supposed to forget it ever happened.

We at Gulf Watchers have not forgotten. We have not forgotten what the lust for money and oil and power has done, and continues to do, to the Gulf, to Japan, to the Middle East - indeed, to the entire planet.

The 500th Gulf Watchers diary. May there be no need for the 1000th. But there will be. We will not give up, nor will we back down. We will still be here. Thank you for joining us.

BP has purchased a chunk of the Mississippi barrier island chain known as Cat Island. BP spokesman Ray Melick told the The Sun Herald newspaper that the land was bought last week from the Boddie family, which owns a large area of the island. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Why? They give reasons, but the conspiracy-theory lobe in my brain has come up empty on exactly why BP would need a piece of some of the most delicate land along the Gulf Coast. Does Tony Hayward's yacht need a new boatslip?

The Boddie family still owns much of the island; about 30 other parcels are privately owned. The Gulf Islands National Seashore retains the rest of Cat, in the federally-protected National Seashore parks chain.

“We have bought much of the private land,” Melick told the newspaper, “the whole stretch of beach that faces east.”

Melick said the company hasn’t decided what it will do with the land, but the purchase will help it expedite cleanup of the islands in the wake of the BP oil spill.

“It’s easier to deal with it when it’s not privately owned,” Melick said.

More than 1,700 tons of tar, oily sand and oiled debris had been collected from the chain of barrier islands as of early March. Work was suspended on all the barrier islands — Petit Bois, Horn, West Ship, East Ship and Cat — so as not to disturb nesting areas for turtles and shorebirds.

In a later statement Thursday, Melick said: “The purchase of this section of Cat Island is in keeping with BP’s commitment to preserve and protect the environment, ecology, and historical significance of the Mississippi barrier islands for future generations.”

I call bullshit, Mr. Melick. I don't know what BP intends, but nothing - and I mean nothing - is done without a reason; that reason usually being money, or hiding something that could lose you money. This can't be out of the goodness of their dessicated little hearts...BP does not have a heart.

National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been interested in buying that part of the island as part of the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Project, but had not succeeded. Brown said that he had heard that BP would donate that part of the island to Mississippi and ultimately the National Seashore.

“But none of that was in writing,” Brown said. “I don’t believe BP intends to retain it.”
BP giving something away? Yeah, right... I'll believe that when I can gnaw on it with my very own teeth...

(Cat Island is named for raccoons mistaken for cats by early explorers. Srsly...)

The owner of a large fishing lodge in Louisiana - and long a staunch supporter of the oil and gas industry - has changed his opinion of BP. He now calls them liars...

Ryan Lambert, the owner of Cajun Adventures Fishing Lodge, says that the fishing industry and oil producers have always gotten along fairly well, but he has changed his mind as of late.

"The fishing industry has always lived side-by-side with the oil industry down here in Plaquemines Parish, and they've always told us that if anything happened, they would take care of the problem -- they would repair the damages and they would make us whole -- and I believed them," said Lambert.

"Well, they lied. About everything. They didn't take care of the problem, and they're not taking care of us. Guys in my business weren't made whole. A lot of them are starving. And now that the national media is gone, BP couldn't care less.

"I'm sick of it, and I'm telling the whole country about it -- on national TV, in magazines and in front of Congress."

Lambert says he estimates he lost 94 percent of his business last summer and fall, costing him $1.1 million in revenue. But worse, his employees are struggling.

He expected the 22 families that depend on his business for their livelihoods -- a lodge staff of eight, plus 14 guides -- to take a financial wallop, and they did. Only five of the guides were hired in the cleanup effort. The rest were "calling me daily hoping for work -- which I still don't have for them," he said.

He expected the economic hangover to carry into 2011, and it has; his bookings for May and June are down 55 percent from a normal year, and he has nothing beyond that.

This supporter of the oil industry and a skeptic when it comes to environmental groups has done a complete 180, and volunteers for national green groups, among them the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ducks Unlimited, The Green Group and the Izaak Walton league.

"Originally, I was using (the spill) as an opportunity to tell them about the real problem we have here: coastal erosion," said Lambert, who has been involved in that cause for years.

"But the bad experiences we've had with all the lies and broken promises in this disaster have really opened my eyes. And I want everyone in the country to know about it ... know you can't trust what (the oil industry) promises you."

Lambert said the bad experiences didn't start immediately, receiving a $5000 check early in the disaster. But after paying his accountant and documenting the loss of $1.1 million in gross revenue, he says he got a $200,000 check from BP.

"In order to apply for payment, you had to keep your business open so you could help mitigate the final cost, so that meant I had to keep staff and pay operating expenses through the end of the year," Lambert said. "But after all that, I'm still out $904,000 in lost income."

After being told to re-apply, Lambert said that was pointless; he was going to sue.

"Well, I'm tired of re-applying, because it never does any good," he said. "I'm tired of paying my CPA. Now I'm paying a lawyer."

Lambert says his real anger is about what has happened to the 600-plus charter and fishing-boat operators in the state, who took the $25,000 "quick payment" from Kenneth Feinberg, because they had no choice.

"The only ones who took that were guys who had no other choice because of their situation," he said. "They had house notes or boat notes or medical expenses and no business coming in. Well, now that money is gone, and they still don't have any business -- and they're just screwed.

"I don't know of any of the guys who have been made whole like they promised."

"They're independent contractors who work by themselves," he said. "Everyone talks about the ones who made a killing in the cleanup, but not all of them got those jobs. Only five of my 14 guides were hired."

Lambert is also furious that BP has exploited the fact that his lodge was named as on of the top five in the US in a national fishing magazine as proof that "the Gulf is coming back".

"BP had the audacity to put that on their website, like it was a positive thing showing the Gulf Coast was coming back -- thanks to all their efforts," Lambert said. "That just made me crazy.

"What we people should know is that all the millions they spent on those TV and newspaper ads about making things right is a lie.

"And what people in this state should ask themselves is: If a giant like BP isn't making us whole, what do they think is going to happen when the smaller fish in that business have an accident?"

Blowout preventer findings disputed. A top executive at the company that built the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Hirizon well has forcefully disputed the findings of the company that did the forensic analysis of the equipment that was supposed to stop the spill.

David McWhorter, VP for Cameron International in engineering and quality control, says he has major questions about those findings.  

Det Norske Veritas concluded that oil and gas shooting up through a 5.5-inch drill pipe at extremely high pressures caused the pipe to bend, knocking it off-center in the middle of the BOP. Without a centered pipe, the device couldn't use its powerful slicing rams to cut and seal the pipe shut.

The implication of those findings is that the blowout preventer wasn't designed by Cameron to handle such intense emergency conditions. Cameron said it built the BOP to industry standards, but those standards never conceived of a bowed pipe. And standardized tests of BOPs never included a check to see whether the rams could cut off-center pipe.

But under questioning earlier this week, Det Norske Veritas officials acknowledged that they had no physical evidence of the pipe bending and that the elastic bowing of the pipe was simply their theory of what happened based on modeling.

McWhorter said the examiners did not present other things that could have gone wrong and not allowed the blind shear rams to operate properly to cut the pipe and seal the breach, a fault possibly caused by poor maintenance by the rig's owner, Transocean.

The Cameron executive questioned whether there could have been enough pressure to buckle the pipe, which by Det Norske Veritas' own calculations, would have required an incredible 113,000 pounds per square inch of force.

McWhorter said the examiners also ignored the possibility that the critical blind shear rams didn't work because there simply wasn't enough power to get them to close fully. He said a normal level of 1,500 psi might have initially triggered the rams instead of the much higher triggering pressures that should have been employed in an emergency.

"If that happened, it would not have been enough force to cut the pipe (even if centered)," McWhorter said. "It's possible then that the pipe was only dented, not sheared all the way through."

He said hydraulic controls might also have simply "not been up to the game that day." And he noted that the "deadman" function that is supposed to automatically close the rams and disconnect the rig from the well when hydraulics, electricity and communications are all lost can be manually armed or disarmed. He suggested it wouldn't have worked if it wasn't armed when the blowout happened, but he didn't know whether it was or was not.

There has been no testimony or investigative findings indicating whether the "deadman" was armed on the Deepwater Horizon that day.

Shareholders to send BP message on safety.

A group of investors is planning to cast their votes against approval of BP’s annual report at its shareholder meeting in London next week. The group of institutions from the U.S. and the U.K. hold a total of about 12 million BP shares.

They’re upset with the company’s response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, arguing that the annual report doesn’t give investors enough specifics of what the company is doing to improve safety.

“There’s really not sufficient detail to determine how the company’s safety and risk management has been strengthened or how it will be managed,” said Julie Tanner, assistant director of socially responsible investing for Christian Brothers Investment Services.

BP’s internal investigation into the accident made 26 recommendations for the company to adopt, yet the annual report offers little detail on how those are being implemented, she said.

“When are we going to get more information on that? I don’t want to wait for the next annual meeting,” Tanner added. “This is the year that demands greater transparency.”

The vote against accepting the annual report probably won’t change anything, but the investor groups hopes it will send a message to BP’s board that it needs to ensure management follows through on its own recommendations.

Stage set for a Louisiana parish to sue BP. The St. Tammany Parish Council has agreed to sue BP and any other parties responsible for damages related to last April's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The council voted unanimously, with Chris Canulette and Ken Burkhalter absent, to file the lawsuit late Thursday night following an executive session with Kelly Rabalais, legal counsel to President Kevin Davis, council administrator Mike Sevante said.

Rabalais told the council that the parish primarily wants to preserve its right to sue for damages related to the spill that it could incur in the future, Sevante said. Should the parish fail to file suit before the one-year anniversary of the spill -- April 20 -- it could forfeit its right to do so later, Sevante said.

Rabalais deferred comment Friday afternoon to Suzanne Parsons Stymiest, the parish's spokeswoman. Stymiest said the parish has directed its outside counsel -- Walter Leger Jr. and Tom Thornhill -- to litigate the matter as necessary to protect St. Tammany Parish and its people.

She noted that the suit likely would be consolidated with hundreds of other lawsuits filed in the wake of the spill as part of the multidistrict litigation to be heard in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

The suit will attempt to assess the economic issues related to the spill, such as the cleanup costs and the damage to the parish, as well as any health issues, particularly those involving mental health, Stymiest said.

A tenth permit for deepwater drilling is issued.

Federal regulators on Friday gave Statoil permission to drill a deep-water well – the 10th project approved since such work was halted after last year’s Gulf spill.

Under the permit, Statoil will be allowed to drill a new well in 7,813 feet of water in its Logan prospect, 219 miles off the Louisiana shoreline, south of Houma. The Norwegian oil company is slated to drill the well with the Discoverer Americas, a Transocean drillship that is en route back to the Gulf of Mexico from Egyptian waters.

It is the second post-spill deep-water project Statoil has gotten approved. The company also won approval for a well in its Cobra prospect 216 miles south of Texas City on March 25.

Statoil contracted with the Houston-based Helix Well Containment Group to meet requirements that it show how it will respond to any blowout at the Cobra project. It has contracted the competing Marine Well Containment Co. for the new Logan prospect well – becoming the first operator to contract with both containment companies on separate Gulf drilling projects.

In a signal that the regulators now consider the approval of deep-water drilling permits routine, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said it no longer will highlight them in news releases for reporters.

Michael Bromwich, the bureau’s director, also told MSNBC that deep-water permitting won’t be delayed while the government develops new mandates to strengthen emergency equipment called blowout preventers.

“You can always improve the equipment that is being used,” Bromwich said Thursday night on The Rachel Maddow Show. “But that doesn’t mean you bring activities to a standstill until you’ve enhanced those rules.”

The US Coast Guard said it will pursue “enforcement actions” against Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners (ASOP), the company deemed responsible for an oil spill that washed onto Louisiana’s shores last month.

The threat of action comes after ASOP announced yesterday that it had finished its clean-up operation in Louisiana.

“The Coast Guard is pursuing enforcement actions against Anglo-Suisse,” the agency said in a statement today.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman said she was unsure if there would be legal action against the company, saying the matter is still under investigation.

“We are going to ensure that as the responsible party Anglo-Suisse takes care of all the things that they need to take care of,” the spokeswoman told Upstream.

The Coast Guard said all areas of the estimated half-mile stretch affected by the 21 March spill “have been restored to pre-spill conditions”.

It said tests had confirmed that oil samples taken from a well in ASOP’s West Delta Block 117 matched those collected from the shores of Elmer's Island and Grand Isle off Louisiana and that ASOP would be held responsible for all clean-up costs associated with the spill.

The Coast Guard spokeswoman said she was unsure what ASOP's total costs would be.

ASOP has disputed the Coast Guard's findings, saying the oil could not have come from its well. The company has launched an investigation into the source of the spill.

Okay... Lawsuit? Why? But it's clean now. What's the problem? Oil cleanup finished near Grand Isle; crude traced to Anglo-Suisse wells.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Sue Kerver said she could not speculate on how much oil was spilled. The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is still investigating the incident, spokeswoman Eileen Angelico said.

Anglo-Suisse was in the process of plugging a series of 12 shallow-water wells in West Delta 117, a block of ocean it leases west of Southwest Pass, when something went wrong in one plugging operation and oil escaped. The company didn't think it was very much oil and expressed surprise at the idea that a well that hadn't produced since before Hurricane Katrina could be the culprit for what appeared to be a much larger spill. But state-run and independent tests showed that oil washing up on shore matched the very specific chemical fingerprints of crude from Anglo-Suisse's wells.

The Coast Guard said Friday that a total of a half-mile of shoreline was oiled.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, where they know a little bit about seafood... Poll: Are you still concerned about the safety of Gulf seafood?

The world has played host to so much drama since the national and international camera crews departed South Louisiana, it seems to have dimmed the whole event in the nation's  collective memory. Was Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser really briefly as famous as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

Earlier this week, we discovered that the folks at Transocean, the company that owned Deepwater Horizon, are so over the matter that they awarded their executives bonuses for (I’m not making this up) safety performance.

The cameras may be gone, but the effects of the three-month-long oil spill still linger, particularly around the dinner table. Results of a recent study released by Greater New Orleans Inc. revealed that the spill still makes consumers uneasy about the safety of Gulf seafood.

Two weeks ago, a man at Pascal’s Manale announced he was eating oysters for the first time since the spill. Another asked, “Is there any BP oil in them oysters?” (Shucker Thomas “Uptown T” Stewart’s response: “No, but I’ve got some in back if you want it.”)

I was actually surprised to hear the spill was still so present in the minds of seafood eaters.

Please click on the link here to see the results of the poll...

And for a wealth of information relevant to our work here at Gulf Watchers, please read Meteor Blades' Green Diary Rescue - this week's edition: Building a movement against the power of the fossil-fuel juggernaut.

PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!

Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:

4-08-11 06:25 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party-One Word Edition+ Phil S 33
4-08-11 09:07 AM Gulf Watchers Friday - Blackmail and Dolphin Death - BP Catastrophe AUV #499 Lorinda Pike
4-06-11 06:00 AM Gulf Watchers Wednesday - BOP Autopsy FAIL & Containment System FAIL - BP Catastrophe AUV #498 peraspera
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

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

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