BP has been trying with some success to keep the media away from beaches and marshes hardest hit by the spill. Two reporters from the New York Daily News, for example, say they were escorted off a public beach in Louisiana by police officers who explained they were following BP’s orders. But they nonetheless got a unapproved tour of an oil-soaked barrier island from an angry BP contractor:
“Here’s what President Obama didn’t see when he visited the Gulf Coast: a dead dolphin rotting in the shore weeds.
“When we found this dolphin it was filled with oil. Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at,” said a BP contract worker who took the Daily News on a surreptitious tour of the wildlife disaster unfolding in Louisiana.
His motive: simple outrage.
“There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It’s important to me that people know the truth about what’s going on here,” the contractor said.
“The things I’ve seen: They just aren’t right. All the life out here is just full of oil. I’m going to show you what BP never showed the president.”
A reporter for Mother Jones, also blocked by police from visiting Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, recounts her conversation with Barbara Martin, a BP press representative:
“We tell her that deputies were just yelling at us, and she seems truly upset. For one, she’s married to a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy. For another, “We don’t need more of a black eye than we already have.”
“But it wasn’t BP that was yelling at us, it was the sheriff’s office,” we say.
“Yeah, I know, but we have…a very strong relationship.”
“What do you mean? You have a lot of sway over the sheriff’s office?”
When I tell Barbara I am a reporter, she stalks off and says she’s not talking to me, then comes back and hugs me and says she was just playing. I tell her I don’t understand why I can’t see Elmer’s Island unless I’m escorted by BP. She tells me BP’s in charge because “it’s BP’s oil.”
“But it’s not BP’s land.”
“But BP’s liable if anything happens.”
“So you’re saying it’s a safety precaution.”
“Yeah! You don’t want that oil gettin’ into your pores.”
“But there are tourists and residents walking around in it across the street.”
“The mayor decides which beaches are closed.” So I call the Grand Isle police requesting a press liason, only to get routed to voicemail for Melanie with BP. I call the police back and ask why they gave me a number for BP; they blame the fire chief.
I reach the fire chief. “Why did the police give me a number for BP?” I ask.
“That’s the number they gave us.”
As the spill spreads, coming ashore in more and more places throughout the Gulf, BP’s attempt to stage-manage the disaster is going to fall apart.
The good news is that according to U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska, there is no environmental disaster looming in the Gulf because oil leaks are a natural phenomenon. Young also criticized President Obama’s decision to put a moratorium on new deep-water oil-drilling permits until we can be assured the process is safe. Other Republican leaders, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, have also criticized Obama’s decision.
Reports the Dallas Morning News:
“It’s exactly the wrong decision,” says Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, who has received more oil industry donations than any other current U.S. House member.
“It’s going to raise unemployment, and it’s going to raise oil prices.”
Rep. Ralph Hall of Rockwall, the senior Republican on the House science committee, said that if anything, the BP spill shows a need for more drilling in deep waters because it demonstrates the vast petroleum reserves in the gulf.
“There’s this huge stream of energy that’s coming out of that broken pipe,” Hall said. “It’s certainly something we could use to lessen our dependence on Arab energy.”
After tightening safety rules, the Obama administration on Wednesday ended its ban on new permits for shallow-water drilling, while extending its deep-water ban.
“The Obama administration ran afoul of environmentalists Wednesday by approving a new oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, even as millions of gallons of oil continue to gush from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig and the British oil giant struggled with its latest effort to cap the well.
The new drilling permit, awarded to Bandon Oil and Gas, is the first granted by the Minerals Management Service since the BP rig exploded April 20, killing 11 people. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar extended a moratorium recently on deepwater drilling, such as that of the Deepwater Horizon, which was drilling about a mile beneath the water’s surface when the rig exploded.
At the same time, however, the administration quietly allowed a ban on drilling in shallow water to expire. The Bandon Oil permit is for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the surface, which qualifies as a shallow drilling site.”