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BP oil spill: noteworthy information and a court decision

Tomorrow’s anniversary of the BP oil spill should spark recognition that the nightmare from the worst environmental calamity in our nation’s history is far from over. We can’t ignore the damage rained down on the environment in general, fellow boat dealers and marina operators in particular, and the million of families living along the Gulf Coast. Their problems keep coming.

One example: Reports last week came from fishermen who have been fishing the Gulf for decades. They’re bringing in red snapper with dark lesions on their skin. In some cases the lesions have eaten through to the muscle tissue. They also have enlarged livers, gallbladders and bile ducts.

“These fish have a bacterial and parasite infection consistent with a compromised immune system,” oceanographer Jim Cowan at Louisiana State University told St. Petersburg Times reporter Craig Pittman. “No doubt it’s associated with a chronic exposure to a toxin.”

His guess is exposure to oil, and he’s expecting confirmation from toxicology tests that are under way. The red snapper is a popular sport fish and seafood that eats shrimp, crabs and other small creatures on the Gulf floor. They’re usually caught from 10 to 80 miles offshore in 60 to 200 feet.

“It’s not as bad as it might have been,” says Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator.

While tracking the 206 million gallons of oil that poured into the Gulf is a huge challenge, federal officials want us to believe nature eliminated much of it — a quarter of the oil evaporated or dissolved into the water, they say. Flaring burned 5 percent at the surface. Skimming got 3 percent. Another 13 percent was blown into fine droplets. These dispersed with natural gas and remained deep in the Gulf as a thin drifting plume.

The chemical dispersant Corexit 9500, sprayed at the well head, dispersed another 16 percent into fine droplets, which joined the plume. Then, natural oil-munching bacteria swarmed the plumes and ate up the stuff. Wow — even Jules Vern would love that story!

The truth is there’s still a lot of oil unaccounted for. NOAA estimates between 11 and 30 percent, or tens of millions of gallons. Many scientists believe that figure falls woefully short. Plus, no one knows what impact the 1.8 million gallons of poorly studied chemical dispersants are having. Perhaps red snapper will tell us?

The growing mountain of data clearly indicates problems ahead. It’s the government saying things aren’t bad vs. the scientists who say they are. One former federal fisheries official even suggests: “We’re hiding information because of political and economic interests that don’t want you to say anything because it would affect economic interests.”

Well, here’s a good note. The Florida Supreme Court isn’t hiding. It recently ruled that commercial fishermen can sue polluters for economic damages. While the case dealt with fishermen, the “ruling will assist fishermen, property owners and everybody who makes a living related to the coastline,” says attorney Andra Dreyfus, representing the fishermen.

If a company pollutes, plaintiffs need not prove that their own property was damaged, nor even that the polluter was negligent, the court said. Economic damages are sufficient grounds for a suit, and nothing “prohibits any person from bringing a cause of action,” was the ruling.

Whether in Florida or elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, dealers and marina owners should take note of this Florida court ruling. It could widen BP’s legal liability for oil that impacts a state’s waters and the ongoing economic damages suffered because of it.


7 comments on “BP oil spill: noteworthy information and a court decision

  1. dave

    Perhaps those scientists should look at the realities of the EPA’s approved use of Corexit in the Gulf…This story ( and the science behind it paint a pretty toxic picture of Corexit..seems that ANYONE handling it should be in a full hazmat suit…
    redsnappers weren’t nor were these divers and the hundreds of other workers who got involved with Corexit. Just coincidence??!!??
    Sad, truly sad – that an agency like the EPA is allowed to even exist, when so much of their “expertise” is purely political or agenda motivated. In addition to this debacle, now, as reported here, the EPA is going after PVC production…Looks like Texas should have played ball on CO2 reductions.

  2. Ron

    Last evening NBC nightly news showed a very real result on land. Just scratch away a little sand and look at the water that bubbles up. Look at the marshes and wet lands. BP has paid (according to the report) $4 billion of the $20 billion set aside. It won’t be enough without court cases let alone the courts getting involved. BP needs to step up and stop making excuses and stop the spin on how they pay. In the end, it may cost more than just money, it could cost the loss of a company. We do not have enough time during our generation to make this spill go away. All we can hope is it will not affect our next generation.

  3. phil thompson

    I think I know where some of it is. Last week I caught a very large yellowtail snapper thirty miles west of Tampa in 125 feet of water. The fish was full of oil.

  4. Jeff Frischkorn

    And for freshwater comes the threat of hydro-fracturing – “fracking” that will pollute ground water supplies, streams and lakes. All because of carelessness and greed.

  5. C. Moore

    Jeff, Jeff, Jeff It’s for energy independence. Your use of “will” gives no latitude for safety.
    If that is so you should be in front of congress or at least your Federal representatives office not posting on a Trades only site.
    Wait until those radiating containers start showing up from Japan, then you will have home grown careless, greedy, no tax paying GE to blame for the 4 run away reactors in Japan……

  6. AnonymousBob

    To C. Moore:
    What a stupid comment with the “radiating containers…from Japan” statement! Way to do some unsubstantiated fear mongering!! Of course, using the same logic you presented to Jeff about how he should be in front of Congress, the same could be said about your asinine comment. If you know the containers from Japan will be radiating, then why aren’t you in front of Congress or at your Rep’s office testifying about this? Oh, the tangled webs people weave when they become hypocrites!

  7. C. Moore

    AnomymousBob Obviously Doesn’t understand sarcasism & deductive reasoning.
    Jeff it seems believes there is no latitude for safety in fracking. He obviously doesn’t trust those “experts” that say & document that it is.
    If that is so, then he must also believe that the Japanize will be unable to safely control the low level amounts of radiation that is in the air & sticking to items & material in Japan used to make items for domestic use & export. Even when the authorities(Japanize & American) will say everything is safe.
    By the way, I have spoken to various tour & vacation operators in the Fl. panhandle & they say they have had the best spring break season in 5 years…

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