More drilling? Maybe so...but not just yet. Oystermen facing second wave of destruction. Dispute over findings in red snapper. New York man wants BP settlement money. Mobile Baykeeper: Funds must come back to Gulf.
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Political pandering or eleven-dimensional chess? You decide, because I sure don't know...
Amid accusations from Congressional Republicans and their major donors in Big Oil, coupled with rising prices at the gas pump, President Obama has made an apparent policy shift in regard to domestic oil and gas drilling.
In what looks like a concession to the oil interests, the Saturday announcement would ease restrictions implemented after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and speed the development of domestic exploration in areas previously off limits to drilling.
However, the changes would not happen quickly, nor give any immediate relief from gas prices.
Administration officials said the president’s announcement, which included plans for expanded drilling in Alaska and the prospect of new exploration off the Atlantic coast, was intended in part to answer those arguments, signal flexibility and demonstrate his commitment to reducing oil imports by increasing domestic production.
The administration would hold annual auctions for oil and gas leases in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, a 23-million-acre tract on the North Slope of Alaska, a move pushed for by both of Alaska's senators, Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, and Mark Begich, a Democrat. Leases would also be extended for drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico - both restricted after the BP spill, ostensibly to prevent the expiration of said leases while more rigorous safety measures are implemented, and provide incentives to develop leases already held, which amount to tens of millions of acres, both on land and offshore.
The actions loosen some constraints on the oil industry, but do not completely reverse the restrictions imposed after the Gulf disaster. The move comes after a series of bills pushed through the Republican-controlled House, attempting to force the administration to open up even more public lands to unrestricted drilling. The White House has opposed the bills, but has indicated that some points might be given, such as the extension of the frozen leases in the Gulf and Alaska.
Even then, then changes have been called "not terribly substantial".
Responding to the shift by the administration, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, said, “The president just conceded what his party on Capitol Hill still denies: more American energy production will lower costs and create jobs. This reversal is striking, since his administration has consistently blocked American-made energy.”
Congressional Democrats have voiced approval for the administration's move, saying it works in a broader context, which includes revoking tax breaks for oil companies, and encourages drilling on land already leased.
Environmental leaders have taken a wait and see attitude.
Response from environmental advocates was muted. Eric Myers, Alaska policy director for the National Audubon Society, said conservationists were willing to see an increase in drilling in the Alaskan petroleum reserve as long as it did not threaten wildlife, waters or sensitive lands.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska will remain off limits to oil and gas drillers, administration officials said Friday.
Also covered in the address is the impending Justice Department investigation of possible price manipulation and subsequent record profits in the petroleum industry.
“In the last few months, the biggest oil companies made about $4 billion in profits each week,” Mr. Obama said. “And yet, they get $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies each year. Four billion dollars at a time when Americans can barely fill up their tanks. Four billion dollars at a time when we’re trying to reduce our deficit.”
Okay. I am not setting my hair on fire just yet. I'll wait and see what happens. Hey, it's government. Nothing happens quickly...
And now it looks like the Louisiana oysterfishermen won't be getting relief any time soon, if ever.
Oysterfisherman Al Sunseri was forced last June to close his 135-year-old family-run oyster fishing operation, the P & J Oyster Company, laying off thirteen employees. Since then he and his brother have tried to keep the business going.
The much-disputed decision to divert fresh water into the Louisiana wetlands and coastal waters in a futile attempt to keep the BP gusher out killed of large swaths of the oyster beds. Oyster fishermen have been hard pressed to squeeze settlement money from claims czar Kenneth Feinberg's administration; citing the debatable position that oil didn't kill the oysters, fresh water did.
Sunseri says that his patience has run out.
"I'm basically an optimistic guy," Al Sunseri said. "But now I'm mad."
BP refused to pay for a $15 million dollar reseeding project to repair the oyster beds, claiming the oyster deaths could not be linked directly to the spill, and therefore they (BP) we not responsible for reparations.
"They said they were going to make people whole," Sunseri said of BP. "We just recently received a check from them, and it was a pittance compared to what we've lost. They haven't done what they said. They're going to come up with any excuse, any reason to not come up with what we've lost."
And now with the Mississippi River flooding and subsequent diversion of millions of gallons of fresh water into the Atchafalaya and the Gulf, there will likely be no way that the Louisiana oystermen will ever be able to hold BP accountable for the incident that caused the destruction of their industry.
With the opening of the Bonne Carre and Morganza spillways, tons of freshwater will invade brackish waters where oysters thrive. Most of the reefs that help Louisiana produce 40 percent of the nation's crop are located along the southeastern corner of the coast from Lake Borgne to Vermilion Bay.
Despite the reports of diseased fish that are circulating among some commercial anglers and within scientific circles, Alabama researchers fishing within 15 miles of Dauphin Island Thursday caught more than 300 red snapper and found no sign of infection.
A New York man has pleaded guilty to mail fraud for submitting a false claim for $102,500 in lost rental income on two Florida properties from last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, federal prosecutors said Thursday in Albany.
The BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster permanently changed our lives. For most of Coastal Alabama, it will be impossible for many of us to ever "get our lives back," as Tony Hayward so callously described it nor can BP ever make us "whole" entirely.
For specific points made, please click here...
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:
|5-13-11 06:25 PM||GW Friday Block Party--House Edition (??)||Phil S 33|
|5-11-11 06:00 AM||Gulf Watchers Wednesday - Gulf rig worker aid funds wanting for applicants - BP Catastrophe AUV|
|5-10-11 05:48 AM||Gulf Watchers Tuesday- Ignored: Health Issues Post Spill - BP Catastrophe AUV #516||shanesnana|
|5-08-11 12:08 PM||Gulf Watchers Sunday - We Didn't Lie; Everything Was Fine - BP Catastrophe AUV #515||Lorinda Pike|
|5-06-11 06:28 PM||Block Party: Look -- up in the Sky!!!||BlackSheep1|
|5-06-11 09:25 AM||Gulf Watchers Friday - Deepwater Drilling is "Indispensable"- BP Catastrophe AUV #514||Lorinda Pike|
Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.
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