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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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Gulf Watchers Diary Schedule
Tuesday  - morning
Thursday - morning
Friday Block Party - evening
Sunday - morning

Part one of the digest of diaries is here and part two is here.

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Political pandering or eleven-dimensional chess? You decide, because I sure don't know...

Obama administration shifts stance to speed oil and gas drilling.

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.

But in fact the policies announced Saturday would not have an immediate effect on supply or prices, nor would they quickly open any new areas to drilling.

“These spikes in gas prices are often temporary,” Mr. Obama said, “and while there are no quick fixes to the problem, there are a few steps we should take that make good sense.”

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.”

Although Mr. Buck characterized the policy changes as “not terribly substantial,” he added that they should “pave the way for legislation, like the bills the House passed in the past two weeks, to reduce the damage from the restrictions he imposed in the past.”

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.

New Orleans family oyster company sees only dark days ahead.

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."

Despite mounting evidence that Louisiana's wetlands were less polluted by oil than feared, Sunseri's portfolio of worry and disgruntlement had gradually swelled since the well was capped last July. It has only gotten worse in the last week, as the Mississippi River has risen to levels that threaten to cause even more destruction to Louisiana's oyster supply.

Sunseri, like many in the Louisiana oyster business, doesn't believe Kenneth Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility has negotiated in good faith with oyster fishers, farmers and distributors. BP argues that it didn't authorize the freshwater diversions that share blame for the precipitous drop in Louisiana's oyster production in 2010 and therefore shouldn't be held responsible for the harm it caused the $360 million industry.

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.

"We're very likely we're going to see more mortalities in our oyster beds," said Olivia Watkins, special adviser to the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. Watkins declined to speculate on how much damage the freshwater would cause, but members of the Louisiana oyster industry are bracing for paralyzing losses.

"I think we're going to lose 50 percent of what's there," said Mike Voisin, owner of Motivatit Seafoods in Houma and a Louisiana Oyster Task Force board member.

The prediction is especially grim in light of the severity of oyster mortality stemming from the oil spill. Louisiana oyster production was down more than 55 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, according to Wildlife & Fisheries, dropping Louisiana behind Washington state as the country's leading domestic oyster producer. The level of damage Voisin and others fear would put local oyster production at 25 percent of what it was just over a year ago. "And that," according to Voisin, "would hold true for a couple of years."

Gulf research teams offer conflicting reports on health of red snapper.

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.

The Alabama scientists also caught vermillion snapper, lane snapper, triggerfish and ruby red lips, none of which showed any visible abnormalities.

Chris Blankenship, director of the Alabama Division of Marine Resources, was on board the Escape for the Thursday sampling effort.

"I felt like we visited enough places and caught enough fish that we got a pretty good sample. I was encouraged we didn't see any problems, especially with the beeliners," Blankenship said, referring to a small member of the snapper family.

A picture of a beeliner with a strange lump on its side - reportedly caught off Alabama - circulated on the internet last week. "We caught 40 or 50 beeliners and they all looked fine."

A team from Louisiana State University working off Alabama earlier in the week reported catching some fish in the same area that showed signs of disease, either lesions on the skin or internal damage to the liver.

New York man admits filing false claim for Gulf of Mexico oil spill aid.

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.

Jeffrey Feinstein, 58, of West Shokan admitted providing false information to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, formed by British Petroleum to settle damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico, authorities said.

Restitution of the amount Feinstein received in a check is mandatory, prosecutors said. Under federal sentencing guidelines he could face 12 to 18 months in prison. He could also be fined up to $250,000 in one of the few gulf oil spill fraud cases out of upstate New York.

"The impact of fraud arising out of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and other disasters is nationwide," U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said. "This office will aggressively prosecute those who seek to take advantage of such circumstances by attempting to defraud the federal programs that have been established to assist those in need."

Mobile Baykeeper: Clean Water Act fines must come back to the Gulf Coast for restoration.

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.

The light we should see at the end of that dark tunnel, however, is that we learned a few things: We learned should never take our beach for granted; we should never assume we will have what our parents and grandparents had; if we want multitudes of fish in the sea, we must take care of them; and we learned cost is not the only worry related to putting gas in our tanks. Mobile Baykeeper also believes we learned that we can do better for our environment, our economy and our communities.

One place you can put your new knowledge to work to make a difference is by writing letters to your federal legislators. You may now know the Clean Water Act fines that will be levied on BP are not required to come back to the Gulf Coast states. In fact, by law, the funds go into the US Treasury unless we get a law passed to change that.

Over the last three weeks, two Senate bills and three House Resolutions have been introduced. We now need our US Senators and Representatives who live and work in and for the Gulf Coast to work together to insist Clean Water Act money comes back to the coastal states for restoration.

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
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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Comment Preferences

  •  Good morning, all... (19+ / 0-)

    Please post anything new or relevant below.

    And hope that the levees (and especially the Old River Control Structure and the Morganza Spillway) hold...

    (-7.62/-7.90) .....It was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep... Gimli in Moria, JRR Tolkien

    by Lorinda Pike on Sun May 15, 2011 at 09:41:43 AM PDT

    •  Darn, I just heard this Lorinda, and now? (9+ / 0-)

      Obama Moratorium On Offshore Drilling
      I was like, oh yay! And now only a million other environmental issues to fight to fix.
      I just heard this the other day though. I was going to add it to my Fri. diary and didn't have the strength.

      As far as Pres is concerned, I would count him with the People!
      He keeps having these lovely surprises for us all!

      I think he's the guy who is going to pave the way; yes,
      dare I say it, For Change In America! And brother does he have his hands full!

      Correcting over a century of greed and corruption, is no easy task. It will take many democratic voters to say
      Hell No,You're Not Destroying My Town!

      Some will have to start over with all the damage already done.
      Govt needs to make the big businesses that are destroying our country (environmentally and otherwise) pay to repair the damage they've already done and to enforce laws to prevent further destruction!

      I don't see gas either. The infrastructure of America's cities and roads is way to ancient to support more gas lines? When they need to replace all the ones from the beginning of this century that are still in use. There are some ancient gas lines out there in American cities and are just as bad as a nuclear power plant!
      Not to worry, gas is mostly safe, but we need to get rid of it too asap, not produce more. And I've heard of all the fracking too!

      I Loved how Democratic Committee worked
      oil companies over.
      But you said you don't need the tax cuts!

      Environmental issues are not new and have been sufficiently suppressed over the past 50 or more years by those in power!
      Those in power are incredibly dumb. They didn't get power and money because they were smart. Historically speaking, of course!

      I sent this to GW to publish anytime if you want to, it's there.
      (BP) British Petroleum Oil Spill And Continuing Implications Of Adverse Effects On Environmet

      This could end up in another diary. I just wanted to stop by and say I'm Praying For Everyone, Everywhere!
      And you are all constantly in my thoughts. I'm trying to send you all sunshine!

      Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

      by rebel ga on Sun May 15, 2011 at 10:40:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I guess this makes sense (6+ / 0-)

    Uploaded with

    It's better to curse the darkness than light a candle. --Whoever invented blogs, c.1996

    by Rich in PA on Sun May 15, 2011 at 10:19:10 AM PDT

  •  Actually... @#$%&^%$ all. (8+ / 0-)


    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) were not responsible for reparations.

    is the bottom of the barrel.

    That's not a helluva lot of money. Their claim of we're-going-to-bend-over-backward to make things right -- out the window.

    You can smell the lawyerly sulfur in the breeze.

    Financial criminals + Angry White Males + Personality Disorder dreamers + KKKwannabes + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base (-4.38,-3.74)

    by vets74 on Sun May 15, 2011 at 10:31:26 AM PDT

  •  morning, gulf watchers.. (10+ / 0-)

    sanity central. focused as always ... don't know how you do it? into year 2 ... i applaud you!

    "A fool flatters himself, a wise man flatters the fool." Robert Bulwer-Lytton

    by boatsie on Sun May 15, 2011 at 11:44:53 AM PDT

  •  I'm joining you in taking a "wait and see" (7+ / 0-)

    position on Obama's announcement despite the fact that big oil doesn't deserve squat in exchange for losing tax breaks. It's ridiculous they ever had them in the first place.

    I hope they end up with good news about the snappers. However, if fertilizer and pesticide runoff has been responsible for lesions on the snapper in previous years I would say that is a strong message from Mom Nature that we had best be moving to dramatically reduce the use of harmful ag chemicals.

    Keeping everyone in the area affected by and at risk for flooding in my thoughts and prayers. It's gotten to the point I'm afraid to peek at the news very often.

  •  Lorinda are a goddess!!! (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks again, baby, for all of your hard work.

    BP may not have "authorized" those fresh water diversions but the assholes sure didn't say "If you do that, we are not going to pay the oyster industry." I am so fed up with these greedy freaking people.

    I'll let Mr. Lennon say to BP what he said to Paul:

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Sun May 15, 2011 at 01:21:46 PM PDT

  •  Who will be doing which diaries on the (6+ / 0-)

    new schedule? Not that it matters but I am curious.

    love to you all.  rr

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Sun May 15, 2011 at 02:14:41 PM PDT

    •  The sked, I think... (7+ / 0-)

      is shanesnana on Tuesday, pera on Thursday, and me on Sunday. Basically the same, but weekdays are shifted one over.

      And if it stays as tough as it was to find stuff (or it may just be me...) we may have to lop off one of those.

      As for Morganza, there are still only two bays open, but plans are for two more sometime today. They are doing it slowly to allow people and wildlife to get to higher ground.

      And from what I understand, and from the way it looks from maps, almost all of the Morganza floodway is swamp and farmland, and the folks who choose to live there are reminded every year (by notice in the mail) that they live in a floodway - where, if the Mississippi were left to its own devices, would flood it annually, if not completely consume the entire Atchafalaya as the shortest route to the Gulf.

      You know Cajuns are tough, and they understand (and can cope with) better than most anyone the ways of water. So please, don't worry so much. I'm not siding with the Corps of Engineers at all, because they can often tear up an anvil...but I think they are trying to do this with the smallest disruption possible, because - whatever your position on refineries, shipping, etc., if the Baton Rouge/New Orleans area floods (or the Mississippi decides to move west) then we have a true national emergency. I hate it for the folks who live in the floodway, but that's the way it probably has to be. All of Cajun country is not going to drown...that is, unless Mother Nature decides the Mississippi should reach the Gulf through Morgan City. That would change everything.

      Don't worry, please. This too shall pass.  {{{{{rubyr}}}}}

      (-7.62/-7.90) .....It was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep... Gimli in Moria, JRR Tolkien

      by Lorinda Pike on Sun May 15, 2011 at 03:04:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, Lorinda (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorinda Pike, JanL, peraspera

    for the excellent diary and reassuring comments. Agree with you on Obama. Let's not throw away 2012 over semantics.  Like ruby, I seem to be in a dark mood and so will not stay long. (must be the barometric pressure in the northeast).

    Many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign. --Bill Moyers

    by shanesnana on Sun May 15, 2011 at 06:10:36 PM PDT

    •  I've had those dark moods often recently (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Phil S 33, shanesnana, JanL, peraspera

      but I try to work around them. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

      I wish I could have sent you today's weather - high was almost 70, clear skies, low humidity. Not typical for this time of year here, but it was wonderful. (I sat on the porch and knitted for a couple of hours - nice...)


      Take care of yourself, sweetie...

      (-7.62/-7.90) .....It was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep... Gimli in Moria, JRR Tolkien

      by Lorinda Pike on Sun May 15, 2011 at 07:00:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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