"In the 4 million years since Ardi and the countless thousands of generations lost and forgotten, we, alive today, are the only humans destined to determine the future of life on this planet"
Gary S. Schofield
Environmental Crisis in the Gulf of Mexico
As do most observers, Global Concern, Inc. has questions of immediate import.
Any environmental organization or concerned citizen would be remiss in not posing challenging questions since it now appears the Gulf crisis can threaten national security.
Many of these questions stem from the paucity of credible and coherent information being released in press reports, public relations efforts, advertising, etc.
Why is information regarding the crisis in the gulf not being presented clearly, coherently, and more completely?
Why are there not regular news conferences with regular updates on:
· Spill information
o Specific leak source or sources
o Leak rate (including methodology for determining the rate)
N.B.: The current practice of the various parties ascribing leak rate estimates to other parties simply is not an acceptable “solution” to the problem of estimating leak rate, and needs to be halted.
o Spill extent to date
o N.B.: A “spill” has finite extent (such as the contents of an oil tanker) whereas a leak has no finite extent as it is a continuing stream. Currently there is a significant and continuing leak of oil (what used to be called a “gusher” on land) into the Gulf of Mexico.
o Affected areas with countermeasures
o Affected areas without countermeasures
o Plans for countermeasures in potentially affected areas (timing, methods, availability, etc.)
o Effectiveness of countermeasures in affected areas
o Resources available, and from where
o Resources required, and possible sources
· Damage claims
o Claims to date
o Payments to date
o Average backlog (delay in payments)
What is required to make such information regularly available?
What is the delay in making such information regularly available?
Combating the oil leak
It would seem the problems fall into two main categories:
· Stopping the flow of oil from the damaged well, and
· Neutralizing the environmental impact of the oil already released into the Gulf of Mexico
Who is in charge of:
· Overall response the oil leak,
· Technological and engineering efforts directed at stopping the leak,
· Technological and engineering efforts to mitigate the environmental impact, and
· Marshaling resources (including expertise) in this effort?
How is (or should) the available information (see previous section on information) be used to examine the problems being caused and to propose solutions?
What group or groups have been empaneled to work on this problem?
What are their qualifications, who is funding them, etc.?
What alternative solutions are possible?
Are the possible solutions being considered being unduly limited by concerns for saving the well rather than just stopping the leak at all costs?
For instance, the time lost (months) waiting for a relief well to be drilled may stem directly from the premise that any acceptable solution preferably should leave the well usable in the future.
What is the basis for the estimate that cutting the riser pipe would only increase the flow by 20%? Who made this calculation, and on what was it based?
What arguments were made for and against cutting the riser pipe?
What level of assurance was there that doing so would enable a sound technical solution?
Who reviewed and commented on the proposed technical solution to be tried once the riser pipe had been cut? Why was the more difficult seal against the riser pipe chosen as opposed to using the upper blowout preventer valve (BOP) flange for both sealing surface and clamping surface? Who, outside of BP, reviewed and commented on the proposed technical solution?
Consider recent responses to the question even from our government federal representative in this matter National Incident Commander Admiral Allen.
Certainly all parties share an interest in stopping the flow, though perhaps for quite different reasons. Are claims of convergent or even identical goals really credible?
Is it not possible that divergent interests, differing primary concerns may well be impeding progress in finding a solution to stopping the spill?
Why were safety requirements employed by other nations not required prior to granting approval for this (or any other undersea) well in United States (U.S.) coastal waters? Such practices include:
· Requiring the simultaneous drilling of a relief well along with the main well (which eliminates the delay in drilling a relief well),
· Requiring the use of a BOP which can be remotely activated (generally acoustically), and
· Requiring thorough safety testing and monitoring.
Why were environmental protection plans not properly reviewed prior to granting approval for the well?
What other permits have been issued without adequate review? Should not all current drilling permits be suspended until the safety plans and environmental impact statements for each and every permit request have been reviewed and approved?
With the danger of such a disaster could not a relief well already have been dug and been in place?
How were the results of Project “Deep Spill” (http://www.mms.gov/tarprojects/377.htm
) used in formulating the safety plan and safety measures for undersea drilling permits issued since 2005?
Why has there been such a disproportionate investment in undersea oil well drilling techniques as opposed to undersea oil well safety technology in the three decades since the Ixtoc oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979? Why apparently have no new safety techniques been developed in the three decades since the 1979 Ixtoc oil leak?
Why are all parties “behind the power curve” in combating this disaster?
Had this oil leak disaster been described accurately from the outset and had the sole aim been to end the gusher, regardless of the cost, regardless of the destruction of equipment and any potential for the well ever to siphon oil again, could the industry's finest engineers have devised a practical alternative plan?
It seems what is needed are three key people:
· Someone charged solely with stopping the current massive gush of oil and nothing more,
· Someone charged only with mitigating and remediating the environmental impact of the undersea oil gusher, and
· Someone charged with coordinating and marshaling resources required by the first two people.
The last question:
Can we please have an alternative plan now?
The time to act is now.(In fact, we already are late.)
It is hurricane season.
We need a plan for the worst-case scenario.
Please let us not also lose sight of the big picture as well. As Christopher Lawrence President of the Dupuy Institute said. "Oil is a finite resource why are we burning it for so many redundant reasons, even in the production of electricity?"
I firmly believe the U.S. Government should now run the operation (paid for from using the assets of those companies responsible for creating this undersea gusher) and should collect and coordinate the efforts of those professionals in the U.S. and international community with the experience and expertise necessary to immediately stop the gusher at all costs.