Oil Still Fouls Louisiana Marshes

More than eight months after BP’s Gulf oil spill, oil still poisons Louisiana’s marshes. Meanwhile, President Obama allows 13 companies to continue drilling offshore without environmental review.

While BP was struggling to cap the gushing leak from its Deepwater Horizon well, the country united in denouncing the oil giant’s incompetence. As the disaster unfolded, BP’s clumsy PR continued to receive public scorn, even inspiring a Twitter account with over 180,000 followers (@BPGlobalPR).

The BP oil spill, as seen by a NASA satellite, May 24, 2010

Less than a year after the Gulf oil spill began, however, BP’s dreams have come true. The biggest environmental disaster in North American history has largely faded from the national conversation. The beaches are no longer coated with muck, and dead birds are no longer floating around, so the media doesn’t have anything dramatic to photograph. Meanwhile, government reports implied that the oil in the water would just disappear–but we don’t know for sure because it’s too hard to check the entire area. And then there are the dispersants (possibly toxic themselves) and the dispersed oil, which is conveniently impossible to account for.

The damage is still present, though. The ecosystem can recover, to a certain extent, but not in eight months. An AP article published this week confirms that Louisiana’s sensitive salt marshes are still plagued by oil.

State and Plaquemines Parish officials took media on a boat tour ofBarataria Bay, pointing out an area where oil continues to eat away at marshes and protective boom is either absent or has been gobbled up by the oil. The heavily saturated area that reporters saw was 30 feet to 100 feet wide in sections. No cleanup workers were there when reporters toured the area.

From the beginning, a major concern was that the oil would damage the salt marshes, which are vital as a protection against hurricanes and as a nursery for microscopic life forms that support the Gulf ecosystem. Besides poisoning the water, oil kills marsh grasses, worsening an already significant erosion problem.

More from the AP report:

“Clearly there is oil here in the marsh but we are working as a team to find a best way to clean it up,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer. “It’s a high priority.”

The Coast Guard and NOAA representatives insist that a clean-up plan is being developed. They have to proceed with caution, however, since humans trying to restore the marshes could easily cause damage themselves.

“This is the biggest cover-up in the history of America,” Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told reporters, gesturing with his gloved right hand, which was covered in oil.

If a cover-up is, in fact, taking place, neither BP nor the government had to work very hard on it. We, the people, have staged our own cover-up by forgiving and forgetting so quickly. After the Gulf oil spill, most Americans opposed offshore drilling, but we missed the chance to turn around our country’s stance on oil use in general. And the results are already becoming apparent.

Despite promising that future offshore drilling projects would be subject to tougher environmental scrutiny, President Obama (under pressure from the GOP) recently decided to allow thirteen oil companies to drill offshore without detailed environmental review.

Protecting Louisiana’s marshes may still be a “high priority” for some branches of the government, but in Washington it’s back to business as usual.


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