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Topics: Dolphins near Grand Isle being tested for BP oil exposure, Expert: BP spill likely cause of sick Gulf fish, Report by flag state for Gulf rig that exploded recommends better emergency procedures, Group Says BP Ignored Blacks in Pay Out, Fight Intensifies Over BP Claims Process, Oil spill fund wants Miss. case in federal court, BP Texas City coker ops normal after release, Malfunctioning crane blamed for man's injuries at BP Texas City refinery, BP says it cannot find skilled workers, Idle Gulf rigs costing BP $2.4 million a day, Tanzania Energy Regulator Suspends BP’s Domestic Fuel Permit Over Shortage

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No one seems to be asking the glaringly obvious question of why this research was not being done the instant that the Macondo started spewing its black death into the Gulf. Again, No Oil At All (NOAA) is making things highly convenient for BP by letting so much time pass after the spill to bother to do any research. Accurately connecting any dolphin deaths or illnesses to the spill will be a legal nightmare.

Buried in the story is the information that one dead oiled dolphin recovered in June was found to be linked to the Macondo. There is no mention of how many dead dolphin had tissue samples taken for testing for effects of oil contamination nor what tests are being performed. NOAA hasn't even released information on how many dead dolphins had been found that showed signs of external oiling.

Dolphins near Grand Isle being tested for BP oil exposure

The bottlenose dolphin known as "Y-18" lay quietly on a gray cushion mat on the floor of the RV Megamouth as a team of scientists raced through a series of tests aimed at determining whether chemicals associated with the oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill have affected its health.

With veterinarian Forrest Townsend keeping watch on the team's progress, and the dolphin's vital signs, during the speedy medical examination Monday morning, researchers drew blood, samples of blubber, urine and feces, checked the dolphin's teeth, and used a mobile ultrasound machine to map its inner organs.
There, the final steps of the exam were completed -- branding irons dipped in liquid nitrogen were held onto the dorsal skin, marking the dolphin with its scientific name forever.

A tag containing a radio beacon and a satellite transmitter also was attached to the fin atop its back.

Then the scientists released the dolphin, and it swam quickly west toward Caminada Bay.

Dozens of research projects are in progress

Left behind were dozens of vials and packets that scientists hope will help federal and state officials determine the damage caused to dolphins and other natural resources by the oil spill.

The dolphin research is just one of dozens of such research projects for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process required under the Oil Spill Act of 1990. The law requires BP and other companies found responsible for the spill to pay for projects that would mitigate the harmful effects caused by the oil or compensate the public for the loss of the resources.

Other studies are focused on effects on birds, deepwater corals, sperm whales, Atlantic bluefin tuna and other fish species, and both submerged aquatic vegetation and wetlands, including potential erosion, said Tom Brosnan, an environmental scientist who directs NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration, which oversees the damage assessment process.

A key question researchers are trying to answer is whether oil that washed into the Barataria Basin in the months after the April 2010 spill may be to blame for the strandings of 85 premature, stillborn or neonatal bottlenose dolphins that occurred between January and June, said Teri Rowles, director of NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

In addition, a dead adult dolphin found in June in the bay tested positive for oil from BP's well on its skin, she said. A second dolphin carcass found in July also was stained with oil, but the results of tests to determine its source are not yet complete, she said.

The scientists will be testing many of the samples for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a chemical component of oil that is believed to cause birth defects and could be linked to the baby dolphin deaths.

Determining a link is complicated by the fact that a percentage of dolphin pregnancies normally end in stillbirth or abortion, Brosnan said.

The scientists have tested 30 dolphins near Grand Isle since Aug. 3.

Sarasota dolphins are the control group

The results of those tests will be compared to a similar study of bottlenose dolphins near Sarasota, Fla., which is part of a 40-year research program run by Randall Wells, a marine biologist for the Chicago Zoological Society and the Mote Marine Laboratory. The Sarasota dolphins are being used as a control group, bcecause they are not believed to have been exposed to BP oil.

The death of dolphins in Barataria Bay actually predates the BP spill. Between Feb. 1 and Apr. 29, 2010, before oil entered the bay, 113 cetaceans -- the term used for members of the whale family, including dolphins -- were stranded in the area.

Between Apr. 30 and Nov. 2, NOAA received reports of 115 cetaceans stranded or reported dead offshore, while between Nov. 3 and Aug. 7 of this year, another 284 were stranded, including the stillborn and aborted babies.

The strandings before the spill may have been caused by toxic algae blooms or other causes, Rowles said.

There has been very little local reporting on this issue other than when it was first noticed on snapper. The University of South Florida has done excellent, independent work in the Gulf. Let's hope they can get to the bottom of the disease mechanism and what the future impact might be.

Expert: BP spill likely cause of sick Gulf fish

More than a year after the largest oil spill in U.S. history, researchers studying the Gulf of Mexico are finding that more fish are sick, and they're trying to figure out exactly why.

CBS News Correspondent Dr. Debbye Turner Bell took a trip to the Gulf recently to speak with scientists and fishermen about what's happening there.

Bell reported Lucky Russell is convinced his days as a commercial fisherman are numbered.

"I don't think we'll be fishing in five years,"
he said. "My opinion."

He, like many others that fish the Gulf waters, have started catching fish with sores, fin rot, and infections at a greater frequency than ever before.

"Everybody is worried," Russell said.

Jim Cowan, professor of oceanography at Louisiana State University, has analyzed many of these diseased fish.

"When one of these things comes on deck, it's sort of horrifying," Cowan said. "I mean, there these large dark lesions and eroded fins and areas on the body where scales have been removed. I'd imagine I've seen 30 or 40,000 red snapper in my career, and I've never seen anything like this. At all. Ever."

Cowan can't say with certainly the cause of these lesions.

Cowan said, "We think from chronic exposure to some environmental stressor, and I think the likely assumption that it has something to do with the spill is there."

But the 200 million gallons of crude spilled from the Deepwater Horizon last year is at the top of the list because the highest rate of sick fish are being found in the areas of the Gulf that were the most affected by the oil.

"This whole issue seems to be centered between Galveston and Panama City..." Cowan said. "In fact, almost 50 percent of the red snapper that we caught on some of these reefs had had these secondary infections."

These so-called "hot spots" are of particular interest to University of South Florida researcher Dr. Steve Murawski. Bell caught up to him on the choppy waters 11 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Fla., while he conducted his research.

Murawski said, "What we're going to do is establish a baseline for fish disease. So, even if we don't find any potential pathology now, we can go back two or three or four years from now and see if there was some slow time bomb that was going off."

This is the first comprehensive study ever done on the health of fish in the gulf. During the six-week study, Murawski will catch and examine more than 4,000 fish.

He said, "It's going to important for this spill, but it's also going to be very important for the next oil spill that happens in the Gulf because we'll have this baseline."

Oddly, no mention is made in the story about any recommendations in the report that the Marshall Islands actually toughen requirements for flagging vessels. It will be interesting to see if they do anything more than politely request that owners of vessels they flag clean up their acts regarding safety.

Report by flag state for Gulf rig that exploded recommends better emergency procedures

The flag state for the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico last year wants improved procedures for activating emergency systems and maintaining fail-safe devices meant to prevent blowouts like the one that led to the massive BP oil spill.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands, a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the Pacific Ocean, also says in a report to be released Wednesday that there should be better communication between regulatory bodies about the operation of offshore rigs.

The report also recommends rig operators ensure that new crew members, contractors and visitors are told when they board about the roles and responsibilities of people in charge of the vessel, and how the chain of command works in emergencies.

But it does little to place blame for the disaster on the principal companies involved, Deepwater Horizon rig owner Transocean Ltd. and British oil giant BP, which leased the rig to drill at its Macondo well site off the southeast Louisiana coast.

In somewhat of a pass for Transocean, the report concludes confusion regarding decision-making authority during the incident was not a cause of the disaster. A U.S. government investigation by the Coast Guard and the agency that regulates offshore drilling has spent a lot of time focusing on that question. Their final report has not yet been released.
The Marshall Islands report says the disaster was caused by a loss of well control. It blames a deviation from engineering standards and well abandonment plans approved by U.S. regulators, along with a failure to react to multiple indications that the well had lost control.

Recommendations on emergency systems and fail-safe devices involve the rig’s emergency disconnect system as well as the blowout preventer atop the well on the Gulf floor. Neither functioned as they were designed to do.

The report to be issued by the Marshall Islands’ maritime administrator drew upon documents submitted to several U.S. government agencies, testimony during U.S. hearings and from outside experts.

While it's nice to see black activists getting some small media attention I suspect that when all is said and done that BP has screwed over its victims on an equal-opportunity basis.  

Group Says BP Ignored Blacks in Pay Out

A year after the BP oil spill mishap in the Gulf Coast, the company seems to be picking and choosing who receives part of its $20 billion compensation promise.

It’s this kind of injustice that has Operation People for Peace in outrage. The group is determined to secure equal pay-out treatment for everyone. They represent the many black citizens whose lives were wrecked by the oil spill that have yet to receive any kind of compensation.

To make sure their plight was heard, the campaign sent five of their high-profile campaign officials straight to the door of BP’s headquarters in central London on Wednesday Aug 3. The Voice reports that the five then set up a protest outside of the building.

The campaigners say that BP has given more money in some areas and less to others, looking to give first to those with political connections.

“We had to come all the way to the UK because they have refused to do anything,” they told The Voice.

“They have met with us 14 times and have promised us they would pay in two weeks then in 72 hours. But we have received nothing.”
Operation People for Peace is demanding that the British company allot $488 million to the many small businesses, churches, hoteliers and minorities they represent that were affected by the oil spill. They have filed more than 10,000 claims.

“Almost 90 per cent of our claimants are single parents with an average of two children,” Campaign chairman Dr. Art Rocker told The Voice.

“Their earnings are below the poverty line. They live in geographic locations and are engaged in occupations that were impacted most by the spill.”

Civil rights activist Dick Gregory told The Voice that he believes Kenneth Feinberg, BP’s representative in charge of dispensing the compensation, “has done nothing but make false promises of payment.”

“I have come to the conclusion that his job is simply to block payments to poor people, not to settle them,” he said.
With the group’s concerns still left unheard, the group is planning to take their campaign to the next level, in a mass call to boycott BP.

If the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) was treating BP victims fairly Feinberg would not object to outside auditing or having a special master oversee the process. Feinberg is sure not short on chutzpah in his representations to the court about how wonderfully the GCCF is working for victims. I wonder how Mississippi victims feel about their smarmy governor siding with BP and the GCCF about the way they have been treated.

Fight Intensifies Over BP Claims Process/a>

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Kenneth Feinberg has responded to criticism of his handling of the claims process for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which BP pays him $1.5 million a month to oversee. Plaintiffs' counsel claimed that Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility does not comply with the Oil Pollution Act's claims process, and creates "a moving target that no claimant stands a fair chance of hitting."

Plaintiff attorneys in July asked the federal judge overseeing the oil spill litigation to appoint a special master to monitor the claims process. They claims that Feinberg's GCCF "violated of the spirit of the Court's Order seeking to protect plaintiffs and putative class members from confusion and misunderstanding; and that the releases obtained from plaintiffs and other putative class members are invalid and should not be enforced."

The consolidated litigation is overseen by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.

In his reply, filed Monday, Feinberg says it would not be legal for Barbier to appoint a special master to oversee the claims process. He claims the claims process is working in a fair and simple way.

Feinberg says that even claimants who end up taking the $5,000 quick-pay option (or $25,000 for businesses) which requires that waive the right to sue or seek more money from BP, recognize that the process "provides an extraordinary and generous opportunity" for payment.

In their filing in July, plaintiffs' counsel said a special master is needed to assure compliance with the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), to ensure accurate communication with claimants, to make findings or recommendations on OPA's presentment requirements, and to make recommendations regarding the scope and or efficacy of releases of claims.

The plaintiffs said: "The GCCF's own June 2011 statistics reveal the GCCF has paid fewer than 16 percent of interim claims filed, compared with the 97 percent payment rate of 'quick' final claims accompanied by releases."

The releases accompanying final payment bar claimants from ever seeking more money from BP or any other parties in the litigation, including the U.S. Coast Guard.

But the plaintiffs say: "By amending OPA in 1996 to establish the mandatory interim claim requirement, Congress sought to ensure that victims were paid immediately after an oil spill without losing right to pursue long-term claims."

They add: "The abject failure of the interim claims process administered by the GCCF is the latest, and most troubling, in a long line of actions by BP designed to 'close the books' on the oil spill."

Feinberg replied that the interim payments, which plaintiff attorneys say are not being paid, are not required by the OPA, and that "any reasonably objective person genuinely interested in the welfare of those damaged by the spill would acknowledge and commend the extraordinary scope and speed," of the GCCF.

Feinberg added: "The GCCF's exceptional job of fulfilling Congress's intent to expedite recovery and minimize litigation was recently recognized by Mississippi Governor [Haley] Barbour in testimony before the House Committee on Government Operations:

"'We don't get many complaints in Mississippi [regarding the GCCF]. They're doing something that's complicated, and I will say this about it. It is sure better than having to litigate all this, where people wouldn't get their money for years and years and years, and the trial lawyers would get half the money.'" (Brackets in original.)

In July, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood sued Feinberg to try to get access to GCCF claims filed by coastal residents. Hood said that if Feinberg would "open the books for Mississippi claims, we will find they have not treated our claims fairly," according to a July 12 report from ABC News.

Feinberg's document does not address his attorney general's lawsuit.

Ken Feinberg, administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility wants the case Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed against him in state court moved to federal court where one supposes Feinberg feels that he will be met with less hostility. Feinberg asserts that Hood's actions threaten to undermine the claims process. It takes a great deal of chutzpah to make the assertion that eliminating the high-handed, capricious and parsimonious way victims have been treated would be a bad thing. Feinberg also asserts that Hoods accusations border on defamation like Hood could actually do more to damage Feinberg's reputation than he has done himself.

Oil spill fund wants Miss. case in federal court


The administrator of BP's $20 billion oil spill fund wants a federal court to preside over a Mississippi lawsuit, instead of the state court where the suit was filed.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has said Washington lawyer Kenneth Feinberg isn't properly handling the fund for oil spill victims. Hood filed a lawsuit in Hinds County Chancery Court in July to get access to claims filed by coastal residents. Hood says he wants to make the claims process more transparent.

Feinberg moved last week to have the case sent to federal court. Feinberg argues, among other things, that federal court has jurisdiction because the spill originated on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Hood says his investigation falls under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act and the matter should remain in state court.

"This is just a delay tactic on the part of Mr. Feinberg. While we are ready to fight in either court, we believe this is a state issue and will ask for it to be heard in state court," Hood said Monday in a statement.
Feinberg has accused Hood of making allegations that border on defamation and said Hood's actions threaten to undermine the entire claims process.

Even though the leak was brief Texas City Emergency Manager and Homeland Security Director Bruce Clawson said that a "large amount" of gas leaked. The Wall Street Journal reported that some workers from the refinery were evacuated. Reports of BP's Texas City refinery spewing filth are so frequent that they nearly become tedious. It would seem that the 15 workers killed by a vapor cloud explosion has not inspired BP to put a priority on preventing them.

BP Texas City coker ops normal after release

HOUSTON Aug 12 (Reuters) - The coking units at BP Plc's 406,570 barrel-per-day (bpd) Texas City, Texas, refinery were operating normally after a Friday afternoon vapor release, a company spokesman said.

"We had an emissions event at our Texas City coker about noon (CDT 1700 GMT)," said BP spokesman Daren Beaudo in a statement.

"A relief valve lifted for a matter of minutes," Beaudo said. "We believe it was a short duration event but we notified the city and have environmental monitoring taking place to evaluate potential community impact. The cokers are operating normally."

Texas City officials said the release raised the possibility they would issue a shelter-in-place order for residents to avoid possible harm from the vapor.

The risk to city residents ended with the dissipation of the vapor, said Emergency Management Director Bruce Clawson.

In 2005, a vapor cloud explosion at the BP Texas City refinery killed 15 workers and injured 180 other people.

Cranes are not the type of equipment that suffer fools gladly which should preclude BP from operating any of them. Again, another BP worker suffers from BP's shoddy maintenance and workplace practices that grossly ignore worker safety.

Malfunctioning crane blamed for man's injuries at BP Texas City refinery

GALVESTON - Tommy Abshire is suing BP Products North America Inc. and Maxim Crane Works after being struck by a component of a reportedly malfunctioning crane almost two years ago.

A pad eye on the crane tore loose and caused a shackle to hit Abshire on the left side of the head on Oct. 8, 2009, according to a lawsuit filed Aug. 9 in Galveston County District Court.

Maxim is the crane's presumed owner while BP's Texas City refinery is the location of the alleged incident.

Court papers show Abshire and others attempting to lift the cover of a convection box when the pad eye loosened.

The original petition asserts the crane in question was reportedly malfunctioning and subsequently jerking periodically.

"The accident was caused, among other things, by improper rigging, improper lifting techniques, improper crane operation, improper supervision and a faulty and malfunctioning crane, of which the defendants were aware," the suit says.

I'm sure it has never entered the greedy brains of the dunderhead BP execs that it might be easier to hire qualified workers if BP would stop injuring and slaughtering its employees through irresponsible cost cutting for safety and maintenance.

BP says it cannot find skilled workers

The regional boss said the FTSE 100 company was planning to recruit between 150 and 300 jobs a year to help fuel an expected growth in production, but said one of the company's biggest problems was finding the right people with the right skills to fill vacant positions.

Last month, the company announced it would pump £3bn into its North Sea operations in a plan to redevelop two oilfields. The investment will see production expand at Schiehallion and Loyal oilfields, to the west of the Shetland Islands, in a move that would create hundreds of new jobs.

But Mr Garlick said BP would struggle to attract enough engineers for available roles.

When asked what the biggest barrier to growth at BP would be, he replied: "Skills – getting hold of the right people is a real issue for us. We are hiring a lot people, but we are also an exporter of a couple of hundred people to other regions [in BP]. We are centre for recruiting elsewhere."

Mr Garlick said BP's North Sea operations were seen as a "training ground" by the rest of the company, which quickly snapped up talented workers to fill posts overseas. But there simply weren't enough people in the UK with the "right skills" available to fill remaining gaps, he said.

BP has clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of operating their pipeline in Alaska and their Texas City refinery responsibly and both of those operations use well-established technologies. Why regulators ever even contemplated issuing such irresponsible fools permits to play with the sophisticated technology used in deepwater drilling is a puzzlement. That they would consider doing so again after BP clearly proved they aren't grown up enough to play with the big boy toys ought to be criminal. The only area where BP has demonstrated any level of competence is buying political influence.

Idle Gulf rigs costing BP $2.4 million a day

LONDON – BP’s drilling delay in the Gulf of Mexico means production will keep declining at its most profitable fields as the company spends $2.4 million a day to keep rigs in the region idle.

While executives say BP is making progress toward resuming drilling in the Gulf, the company hasn’t submitted an application for a permit to start a new well since President Obama’s moratorium was lifted Oct. 12, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. They declined to be identified because it’s not public information.

BP’s output in the Gulf may drop as much as 30 percent a year without the wells needed to boost production at existing fields, according to Macquarie Capital. For CEO Bob Dudley, restoring BP’s position in the region, where the company is the largest producer, is central to reviving shares that are trading at the lowest in 11 months.

“It’s critical for Dudley to get production back up in the Gulf,” said Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer in New York. “Those barrels are worth double or triple the value of oil from anywhere else in the world. It’s the crown jewel of the company.”

Tanzania spanks BP for bogarting fuel. Too bad BP's license wasn't revoked permanently but we'll take small bits of good news where we can find it. It's refreshing to see a government not caving in to pressure from big oil. What a shame our regulators aren't doing the same.

Tanzania Energy Regulator Suspends BP’s Domestic Fuel Permit Over Shortage

Tanzania’s energy-industry regulator suspended British Petroleum Tanzania Ltd.’s wholesale license for three months amid a fuel shortage the authority says has been caused by suppliers disgruntled with lower prices.

BP retailers in the East African country will be allowed to continue supplying to motorists as long as they source fuel from other wholesalers, Haruna Masebu, director-general of the Energy and Water Utilities Authority, said in an interview today. BP will also be able to continue supplying fuel to the aviation industry, it said.
Motorists in Dar es Salaam have faced queues at gas stations since Aug. 5 amid a gasoline shortage. The industry regulator, which sets prices every two weeks, cut the cost of a liter of gasoline by 9.2 percent on Aug. 3, while diesel was reduced by 8.3 percent. The country currently has in storage 41 million liters of gasoline, enough supply for 48 days, and 92 million liters of diesel, able to cover 30 days, it says.

“There is enough fuel storage in the country, but companies are not distributing because we reduced the price,” Titus Kiguo, a spokesman for the regulator, said in an interview on Aug. 10. “We will not increase the price because oil companies want that. We will continue with our usual two-week price reviews.”

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:

8-14-11 12:32 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - Trials, Leaks, and a Random Nutjob - BP Catastrophe AUV #546 Lorinda Pike
8-12-11 06:33 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party - Mono no aware, and a tribute to Beaker Street 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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