Showing posts with label gulf of Mexico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gulf of Mexico. Show all posts

Friday, August 6, 2010

Using "Noah's Ark" To Save Sealife

PANACEA, Fla. (AP) - On the chance that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill threatens some sea creatures with extinction, naturalist Jack Rudloe hopes his laboratory can save them.

Rudloe has launched Operation Noah's Ark, using his four-acre facility an hour south of Tallahassee to preserve more than 350 different specimens — everything from sharks to starfish, shrimp and batfish — in an environment that includes a grassland and duplicates high and low tides. And he's not doing it two-by-two. The fiddler crabs, for instance, number around 50,000.

"We have this endless supply of critters and water out there," said Rudloe, 67, whose enchantment with the Gulf and its inhabitants date back some 40 years. "We have to get as many animals in there as we can and then if the conditions permit, be able to put some of them back and get some things started."

Though the broken oil rig has been capped since mid-July and little heavy crude is visible on the Gulf, Rudloe said he's still committed to the project.

"I don't believe that the oil is gone," Rudloe said. "It's still out there in cold water, little tiny droplets that could come spilling up here in the wrong conditions of one or two hurricanes."

Rudloe's Dickerson Bay laboratory is about 20 miles from the easternmost point where oil has been reported on Florida's Panhandle. Still, he worries about oil fouling his 50 tanks, which use saltwater pulled through an 800-foot pipeline from the Gulf. He is installing filtration systems just in case.

"If everything is dead, the marshes are black, the water is foul ... we still want to keep the place going," Rudloe said. "We would have to have live support systems where we can keep things alive."

Rudloe estimates the project could cost $1.2 million. He can't afford that kind of financial hit, coming at a time his wife — noted marine biologist Anne Rudloe — is battling a serious illness. The nonprofit, licensed facility, which attracts about 18,000 visitors annually, depends on admission fees, memberships and donations.

"We're bleeding green," Jack Rudloe said.

Rudloe said he hopes BP PLC will help fund the project; BP said it couldn't provide information on Rudloe's claim.

"If anybody should come to anybody, BP should be coming to him and say 'OK,'" said Robert Seidler, a Sopchoppy, Fla., filmmaker who has observed the Rudloe's operation for decades. "Nobody has the collective knowledge of the area like the Rudloes do. Every trend, storms, floods, red tides. He knows all of that."

Rudloe, who provides specimens for university and medical research, is well known nationally among marine biologists.

A New York native who moved to Florida in his early teens, Rudloe, who is self-taught, has joined with his wife to write books on the Gulf ecosystem along with articles for National Geographic, Sports Illustrated and other publications.

Rudloe has gotten some outside help since the spill. Pennsylvania-based Martin Marine shipped a $25,000 water-oil separator that Rudloe said could save the day, sifting out petrochemicals.

"We have a way to fight back. We can clean our water and go on living."

He will also use roughly 50 large water tanks to store "healthy seawater" to maintain hundreds of other critters, including sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sponges, sea horses and spinybox fish.

The BP spill isn't his first clash with oil companies.

In 1989, Rudloe cut his Exxon credit card in half and put it inside a plastic sandwich bag filled with oil to protest a spill created when the Exxon Valdez tanker dumped an estimated 32 million gallons of crude oil into pristine Alaskan waters after it grounded on a reef.

But that doesn't come close to the disaster threatening the Rudloe's lifetime of work.

"Where are the protections these companies were supposed to build in?" Rudloe asks. "I don't think anything really has been learned. We're just as dumb now as we were then."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Tighter-fitting Cap May Be The Answer To This Disaster

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The BP oil leak could be completely contained as early as Monday if a new, tighter cap can be fitted over the blown-out well, the government official in charge of the crisis said Friday in some of the most encouraging news to come out of the Gulf in the 2½ months since the disaster struck.

If the project planned to begin this weekend is successful, it would simply mean no more oil would escape to foul the Gulf of Mexico. The well would still be busted and leaking — workers would just funnel what comes out of it to tankers at the surface. The hope for a permanent solution remains with two relief wells intended to plug it completely far beneath the seafloor.

"I use the word 'contained,'" said retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen. "'Stop' is when we put the plug in down below."
Crews using remote-controlled submarines plan to swap out the cap over the weekend, taking advantage of a window of good weather following weeks of delays caused by choppy seas.

The cap now in use was installed June 4 to capture oil gushing from the bottom of sea, but because it had to be fitted over a jagged cut in the well pipe, it allows some crude to escape into the Gulf. The new cap — dubbed "Top Hat Number 10" — is designed to fit more snugly and help BP catch all the oil. During the installation, the gusher will get worse before it gets better. Once the old cap is removed, oil will pour into the Gulf unhindered for about 48 hours while the new one is put in place, Allen said.

BP also worked on Friday to hook up another containment ship called the Helix Producer to a different part of the leaking well. The ship, which will be capable of sucking up more than 1 million gallons a day when it is fully operating, should be working by Sunday, Allen said.

The government estimates 1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons of oil a day are spewing from the well, and the existing cap is collecting about 1 million gallons of that. With the new cap and the new containment vessel, the system will be capable of capturing 2.5 million to 3.4 million gallons — essentially all the leaking oil, officials said.

The plan had originally been to hook up the Helix Producer and install the new cap separately, but the favorable weather convinced officials the time was right for both operations. "Everybody agrees we got the weather to do what we need," Allen said. He said the calm weather is expected to last seven to 10 days.

In a response late Friday to Allen's request for detailed plans about the new cap, the Helix Producer and the relief wells, BP managing director Bob Dudley confirmed that the leak could be contained by Monday.

But Dudley included plans for another scenario, which includes possible problems and missteps for the installation of the cap that would push the work back until Thursday.

The past 80 days have seen the failure of one technique after another to stop the leak, from a huge containment box to a "top kill" and a "junk shot." The latest approach is not a sure thing either, warned Louisiana State University environmental sciences professor Ed Overton.

"Everything done at that site is very much harder than anyone expects," he said. Overton said putting on the new cap carries risks: "Is replacing the cap going to do more damage than leaving it in place, or are you going to cause problems that you can't take care of?"

Containing the leak will not end the crisis that began when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. The relief wells are still being drilled so they can inject heavy mud and cement into the leaking well to stop the flow, which is expected to be done by mid-August. Then a monumental cleanup and restoration project lies ahead.

Some people in Louisiana's oil-soaked Plaquemines Parish were skeptical that BP can contain the oil so soon.

"Too many lies from the beginning. I don't believe them anymore," oyster fisherman Goyo Zupanovich said while painting his boat at a marina in Empire, La.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

No Oil Derricks Any Time Soon For Virginia

Richmond, Va. --

Oil derricks may not be sprouting anytime soon off the Virginia coast because of the BP blowout, but the state's senior U.S. senator says those operating elsewhere must be protected from another threat: terrorism.

Democrat Jim Webb, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is calling on the Obama administration to develop safeguards for shielding offshore platforms from attack.

Webb made his case in a recent letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar.

"While Congress will continue to scrutinize BP and regulatory agencies, I write to urge you to also be vigilant against deliberate acts, such as an attack or sabotage, that could similarly devastate the region," says Webb, referring to the oil-rich Gulf Coast.

Webb favors exploration for oil and gas in Virginia waters, but after the Deepwater Horizon disaster he backed a White House-ordered delay until safety and environmental concerns are addressed.

In his letter, Webb notes that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission now requires that atomic generators withstand plane crashes. Similar standards should be considered for the oil and gas industries, Webb says.

"Security issues surrounding oil and gas drilling are of a different nature, but a lack of vigilance could leave the marine ecosystem, as well as certain areas of our national security, at great risk," Webb said.

"The Deepwater Horizon incident has caused the worst environmental disaster in our nation's history. With dozens of wells operating in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, we must employ policies that mitigate all types of risk.

"I therefore request that you provide, as soon as practicable, your assessment of the vulnerability of offshore oil rigs to attack, the current framework for addressing such risks and your recommendations to Congress for deploying adequate resources and safeguards," Webb says.

Webb's request for administration suggestions to Congress on improving security of offshore platforms comes as the Virginian readies for a possible rematch in two years with the incumbent Republican he narrowly defeated in 2006, George Allen.

Allen, too, supports energy exploration off the state's coast. A former governor, Allen operates a political consultancy that is aligned with the U.S. energy industry and through which he advocates for increased domestic drilling.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Hands Across The Sand"

PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Hundreds of people including Florida's governor joined hands on an oil-stained strip of beach in the Florida Panhandle as part of an international demonstration against offshore drilling Saturday.

Organizers of "Hands Across the Sand" said similar protests were held at beaches around the nation and in several foreign countries.

The demonstration also was intended to show support for clean alternatives to fossil fuels.

Gov. Charlie Crist returned to Pensacola Beach, where he walked with President Barack Obama on the snow white sand June 15. That was before gobs of goo from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico came ashore last week.

Demonstrators shared the beach with tourists and heavy equipment standing by in case more oil comes ashore.

Michael DeMaria, a clinical psychologist from Pensacola, led demonstrators from a pavilion to the shore like an environmentalist pied piper, tooting softly on a native American-style flute. He said he often tells patients to go swimming in the Gulf as part of therapy.

"It breaks my heart," DeMaria said of the spill. "It's amazing how healing just being by the water is."

A barefoot Crist held hands with his wife, Carole, and Joan Jackson, a middle school teacher in nearby Pace.

Dozens frolicked in the water, and Crist, who wore shorts, waded a few feet in as the demonstration broke up. He assured people the water was safe.

"I'm not convinced," Jackson said, adding that she's worried about adverse health effects from chemical dispersants used to break up the oil at sea.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Saints To Raffle Super Bowl Ring to Support Gulf Coast

During a trip to Plaquemines Parish to support the area's fight against the oil spill, Saints quarterback Drew Brees announced today that the team is raffling off an authentic Super Bowl ring to raise funds to help support those impacted by the oil spill.

Brees made the announcement to coastal Who Dat Nation weary from the worst-ever U.S. oil spill.

Raffle tickets are $2, with a minimum ticket order being $10, according to Brees.

The winner will be announced prior to the team’s Sept. 9 home opener against Minnesota

At the event in Buras, lLocals were able to aside their misery for a few hours to schmooze with the Super Bowl-champion Saints today.

Saints owner Tom Benson, coach Sean Payton and players greeted a crowd Tuesday at Fort Jackson in Plaquemines Parish.

The fort has been a staging area for cleaning birds rescued from the oil flowing from BP's well in the Gulf of Mexico.

In oppressive heat, a jazz band played while Payton and star quarterback Drew Brees signed autographs.

Benson and others were to have lunch with Gov. Bobby Jindal and area fishermen. A news conference was planned later.