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And pray we don't have more of these:

Gulf Coast oil spill could eclipse Exxon Valdez

By CAIN BURDEAU and HOLBROOK MOHR, Associated Press Writers Cain Burdeau And Holbrook Mohr, Associated Press Writers Thu Apr 29, 7:09 pm ET

VENICE, La. – An oil spill that threatened to eclipse even the Exxon Valdez disaster spread out of control and drifted inexorably toward the Gulf Coast on Thursday as fishermen rushed to scoop up shrimp and crews spread floating barriers around marshes.

The spill was both bigger and closer than imagined — five times larger than first estimated, with the leading edge just three miles from the Louisiana shore. Authorities said it could reach the Mississippi River delta by Thursday night.

"It is of grave concern," David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press. "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling."

The oil slick could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world's richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life.

The leak from the ocean floor proved to be far bigger than initially reported, contributing to a growing sense among many in Louisiana that the government failed them again, just as it did during Hurricane Katrina. President Barack Obama dispatched Cabinet officials to deal with the crisis.

Cade Thomas, a fishing guide in Venice, worried that his livelihood will be destroyed. He said he did not know whether to blame the Coast Guard, the federal government or oil company BP PLC.

"They lied to us. They came out and said it was leaking 1,000 barrels when I think they knew it was more. And they weren't proactive," he said. "As soon as it blew up, they should have started wrapping it with booms."

The Coast Guard worked with BP, which operated the oil rig that exploded and sank last week, to deploy floating booms, skimmers and chemical dispersants, and set controlled fires to burn the oil off the water's surface.

The Coast Guard urged the company to formally request more resources from the Defense Department. A BP executive said the corporation would "take help from anyone."

Government officials said the blown-out well 40 miles offshore is spewing five times as much oil into the water as originally estimated — about 5,000 barrels, or 200,000 gallons, a day.

At that rate, the spill could easily eclipse the worst oil spill in U.S. history — the 11 million gallons that leaked from the grounded tanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989 — in the three months it could take to drill a relief well and plug the gushing well 5,000 feet underwater on the sea floor.

Ultimately, the spill could grow much larger than the Valdez because Gulf of Mexico wells typically hold many times more oil than a single tanker.

Photos: Oil spill off Louisiana coast

View slideshow

Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP Exploration and Production, had initially disputed the government's larger estimate. But he later acknowledged on NBC's "Today" show that the leak may be as bad as federal officials say. He said there was no way to measure the flow at the seabed, so estimates have to come from how much oil rises to the surface.

Mike Brewer, 40, who lost his oil spill response company in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina nearly five years ago, said the area was accustomed to the occasional minor spill. But he feared the scale of the escaping oil was beyond the capacity of existing resources.

"You're pumping out a massive amount of oil. There is no way to stop it," he said.

An emergency shrimping season was opened to allow shrimpers to scoop up their catch before it is fouled by oil. Cannons were to be used to scare off birds. And shrimpers were being lined up to use their boats as makeshift skimmers in the shallows.

This murky water and the oysters in it have provided a livelihood for three generations of Frank and Mitch Jurisich's family in Empire, La.

Now, on the open water just beyond the marshes, they can smell the oil that threatens everything they know and love.

"Just smelling it, it puts more of a sense of urgency, a sense of fear," Frank Jurisich said.

The brothers hope to get all the oysters they can sell before the oil washes ashore. They filled more than 100 burlap sacks Thursday and stopped to eat some oysters. "This might be our last day," Mitch Jurisich said.

Without the fishing industry, Frank Jurisich said the family "would be lost. This is who we are and what we do."

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday so officials could begin preparing for the oil's impact. He said at least 10 wildlife management areas and refuges in his state and neighboring Mississippi are in the oil plume's path.

The declaration also noted that billions of dollars have been invested in coastal restoration projects that may be at risk.

As dawn broke Thursday in the oil industry hub of Venice, about 75 miles from New Orleans and not far from the mouth of the Mississippi River, crews loaded an orange oil boom aboard a supply boat at Bud's Boat Launch. There, local officials expressed frustration with the pace of the government's response and the communication they were getting from the Coast Guard and BP officials.

"We're not doing everything we can do," said Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, which straddles the Mississippi River at the tip of Louisiana.

Tension was growing in towns like Port Sulphur and Empire along Louisiana Highway 23, which runs south of New Orleans along the Mississippi River into prime oyster and shrimping waters.

Companies like Chevron and ConocoPhillips have facilities nearby, and some residents are hesitant to criticize BP or the federal government, knowing the oil industry is as much a staple here as fishing.

"I don't think there's a lot of blame going around here. People are just concerned about their livelihoods," said Sullivan Vullo, who owns La Casa Cafe in Port Sulphur.

A federal class-action lawsuit was filed late Wednesday on behalf of two commercial shrimpers from Louisiana, Acy J. Cooper Jr. and Ronnie Louis Anderson.

The suit seeks at least $5 million in compensatory damages plus an unspecified amount of punitive damages against Transocean, BP, Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and Cameron International Corp.

In Buras, La., where Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, the owner of the Black Velvet Oyster Bar & Grill couldn't keep his eyes off the television. News and weather shows were making projections that oil would soon inundate the coastal wetlands where his family has worked since the 1860s.

It was as though a hurricane was approaching, maybe worse.

"A hurricane is like closing your bank account for a few days, but this here has the capacity to destroy our bank accounts," said Byron Marinovitch, 47.

"We're really disgusted," he added. "We don't believe anything coming out of BP's mouth."

Signs of the 2005 hurricane are still apparent here: There are schools, homes, churches and restaurants operating out of trailers, and across from Marinovitch's bar is a wood frame house abandoned since the storm.

A fleet of boats working under an oil industry consortium has been using booms to corral and then skim oil from the surface.

The Coast Guard abandoned a plan Wednesday to set fire to the leaking oil after sea conditions deteriorated. The attempt to burn some of the oil came after crews operating submersible robots failed to activate a shut-off device that would halt the flow of oil.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was briefed Thursday on the issue, said his spokesman, Capt. John Kirby. But Kirby said the Defense Department has received no request for help, nor is it doing any detailed planning for any mission on the oil spill.

Obama dispatched Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to help with the spill. The president said the White House would use "every single available resource" to respond.

Obama has directed officials to aggressively confront the spill, but the cost of the cleanup will fall on BP, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

___

Mohr reported from Jackson, Miss. Associated Press writers Janet McConnaughey, Kevin McGill, Michael Kunzelman and Brett Martel in New Orleans, and Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge also contributed to this report.

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everybody knows that there is a chance of that happening when drilling for oil. its worth the risk if you ask me

For the oil companies, yes it is worth the risk. They continue to report record profits, pay almost no-to no income tax in the US, get billions in subsidies, and then use their influence to lessen regulations that might prevent this kind of catastrophe.

For the rest of the world, the one that wants to preserve a livable climate, not contribute billions to terrorist states, and not continually enrich those who have only their best interests at heart, it is a terrible risk.

The oil from that rig would provide barely a drop in the bucket of world supply, but the damage it causes will be considerably greater.

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I'll save you the time: the death panels decided to kill marine life near the Gulf Coast by using an oil slick.

Stone cold killers!

I do wonder where all the ridiculous "drill baby drill" fans are on this issue...The gulf coast, republican country, is about to get screwed because of this...

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I think drilling is worth the risk. I also think somebody made a big mistake to make this happen, because this has never happened before.

Either way, this is going to be a lot worse than people can even imagine, and I think it probably will end the United States plans for more drilling. So...that will make a lot of other oil producing countries happy.

But I'm not terribly concerned about that or the politics of the oil drilling right now. We have an incredible disaster developing the likes of which this country hasn't seen in my lifetime. This thing is going to make the Exxon Valdez look like no big deal.

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Y'all realize that using this incident as a reason not to drill offshore is about as silly as using high gas prices as a reason to drill offshore....

....don't you?

I realize that there are plenty of more important reasons to argue against offshore drilling in addition to this incident, and I also realize that this incident highlights the way that oil companies do everything in their power to fight regulations that might prevent accidents like this from happening. I also realize that while a spill of this magnitude hasn't happened from an offshore rig before, there have been many deaths and injuries from offshore rig "accidents" over the past decade, and that left unchecked, there will be more, particularly as companies have to go to deeper and more dangerous locations to drill as easy sources of oil become scarce.

I realize that Halliburton is once again connected with a shady and unsavory event.

Finally, I realize that those shouting "sabotage" already are way too eager to give these companies the benefit of the doubt.

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I realize that there are plenty of more important reasons to argue against offshore drilling in addition to this incident, and I also realize that this incident highlights the way that oil companies do everything in their power to fight regulations that might prevent accidents like this from happening. I also realize that while a spill of this magnitude hasn't happened from an offshore rig before, there have been many deaths and injuries from offshore rig "accidents" over the past decade, and that left unchecked, there will be more, particularly as companies have to go to deeper and more dangerous locations to drill as easy sources of oil become scarce.

I realize that Halliburton is once again connected with a shady and unsavory event.

Finally, I realize that those shouting "sabotage" already are way too eager to give these companies the benefit of the doubt.

Did I shout "sabotage?"

Really?

This incident is not IN ANY WAY an argument against offshore drilling. It's a risk that could have happened anywhere. Unless you are going to say "we cannot use domestic oil at all" (which is political and economic suicide) this is a risk we take.

It may absolutely be an argument to crack down on oil companies for not taking precautionary measures. But it is not an argument against drilling. The best argument against increased offshore drilling is we need to maintain and preserve the reserve petroleum we have because we are going to need it badly in the future (most notably for plastics, medicine, etc.). There are a ton of arguments against it, and I agree with most of them. But this incident is not a reason not to increase offshore drilling. The rarity of such instances makes the logic exactly the same as those who say "we need to drill now to bring prices down."

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Did I shout "sabotage?"

Really?

Look a couple posts above mine. #12 to be specific.

This incident is not IN ANY WAY an argument against offshore drilling. It's a risk that could have happened anywhere. Unless you are going to say "we cannot use domestic oil at all" (which is political and economic suicide) this is a risk we take.

It may absolutely be an argument to crack down on oil companies for not taking precautionary measures. But it is not an argument against drilling. The best argument against increased offshore drilling is we need to maintain and preserve the reserve petroleum we have because we are going to need it badly in the future (most notably for plastics, medicine, etc.). There are a ton of arguments against it, and I agree with most of them. But this incident is not a reason not to increase offshore drilling. The rarity of such instances makes the logic exactly the same as those who say "we need to drill now to bring prices down."

I don't think that's the "best" argument, though it is a great one. It is however probably the most forceful argument as far as convincing those whose mantra is "drill baby, drill." It might actually hold some sway with them, and I've been using it for years.

But, this incident is an argument. While incidents like these are rare, their impact is simply catastrophic to local ecology and economy, especially compared to the positive impact a rig like this produces for American citizens, which is minimal at best. The only people truly benefiting from offshore drilling like this are the Oil Companies, and as long as they are raking in money hand over fist, they will continue to fight safety regulations, making future accidents more likely especially, as I said before, as they have to venture into deeper and more dangerous waters to produce oil.

Edited by The Monarch
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Did I shout "sabotage?"

Really?

This incident is not IN ANY WAY an argument against offshore drilling. It's a risk that could have happened anywhere. Unless you are going to say "we cannot use domestic oil at all" (which is political and economic suicide) this is a risk we take.

It may absolutely be an argument to crack down on oil companies for not taking precautionary measures. But it is not an argument against drilling. The best argument against increased offshore drilling is we need to maintain and preserve the reserve petroleum we have because we are going to need it badly in the future (most notably for plastics, medicine, etc.). There are a ton of arguments against it, and I agree with most of them. But this incident is not a reason not to increase offshore drilling. The rarity of such instances makes the logic exactly the same as those who say "we need to drill now to bring prices down."

It's about risk versus reward. Having more offshore drilling means increasing the risk of events such as this. The reward that comes from the additional oil is minimal because in terms of US consumption there's not a lot of oil to be extracted from the sites being identified for future drilling.

The consequences of this kind of environmental disaster are too great to take on greater risk, even if the chances of events like this are rare, they are not so rare as to not worry about having more of them if we increase the number of oil rigs offshore.

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It's about risk versus reward. Having more offshore drilling means increasing the risk of events such as this. The reward that comes from the additional oil is minimal because in terms of US consumption there's not a lot of oil to be extracted from the sites being identified for future drilling.

The consequences of this kind of environmental disaster are too great to take on greater risk, even if the chances of events like this are rare, they are not so rare as to not worry about having more of them if we increase the number of oil rigs offshore.

Then if that's the argument, we should stop all offshore drilling. Now.

But that's not what you're saying. You seem to think that the "additional" risk of doing some LIMITED offshore drilling in addition to the SIGNIFICANT offshore drilling we do now is somehow an argument not to do it. The risk remains, whether we do a limited amount of additional drilling or not. In fact, one could argue that newer rigs would be less likely to have such issues, with newer technology coming on board. But in either event, the risk is there now.

Unless, as I said, you are going to stop doing all offshore drilling (and we both know that will not happen, and given our current petroleum based economy, cannot happen).

It's either ignorance or demagoguery. In either event, it's a poor argument, particularly when there are much better arguments to be made.

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Look a couple posts above mine. #12 to be specific.

I saw the post. You seemed to be attributing it to me.

I don't think that's the "best" argument, though it is a great one. It is however probably the most forceful argument as far as convincing those whose mantra is "drill baby, drill." It might actually hold some sway with them, and I've been using it for years.

But, this incident is an argument. While incidents like these are rare, their impact is simply catastrophic to local ecology and economy, especially compared to the positive impact a rig like this produces for American citizens, which is minimal at best. The only people truly benefiting from offshore drilling like this are the Oil Companies, and as long as they are raking in money hand over fist, they will continue to fight safety regulations, making future accidents more likely especially, as I said before, as they have to venture into deeper and more dangerous waters to produce oil.

It's a horrible argument. See above.

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Then if that's the argument, we should stop all offshore drilling. Now.

But that's not what you're saying. You seem to think that the "additional" risk of doing some LIMITED offshore drilling in addition to the SIGNIFICANT offshore drilling we do now is somehow an argument not to do it. The risk remains, whether we do a limited amount of additional drilling or not. In fact, one could argue that newer rigs would be less likely to have such issues, with newer technology coming on board. But in either event, the risk is there now.

Unless, as I said, you are going to stop doing all offshore drilling (and we both know that will not happen, and given our current petroleum based economy, cannot happen).

It's either ignorance or demagoguery. In either event, it's a poor argument, particularly when there are much better arguments to be made.

False dichotomy fallacy. The choice is not between absolutely, positively, zero drilling whatsoever (on the one hand) or increasing drilling all across the shoreline (on the other).

Drilling assumes risk, a lot of risk as it turns out. The environmental cost of that risk has to be weighed against the economic gains from the drilling. We are tapping into the largest oil reserves right now and the new drilling areas are not going to produce as much oil as our current production. And the risk to the environment is approximately the same (even smaller wells can dump hundreds of thousands of gallons into the ocean). Personally, we probably should cut back on offshore drilling. But at the very least, we don't need to assume greater risk. There is a NEED for some drilling in the Gulf. There is not a NEED for increased production.

The discussion needs to be about matching the risk to the need in an appropriate manner. The companies want to drill for more oil to boost profits, not to increase US supply (a lot of it actually goes to other countries). Our government needs to consider US national interests, including preservation of our environment, not the interests of corporations seeking higher profits.

Again, look past the false dichotomy fallacy and realize that there is a legitimate concern with increasing the risk of environment damage that could result from greater drilling.

Edited by AcworthFalcFan
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False dichotomy fallacy. The choice is not between absolutely, positively, zero drilling whatsoever (on the one hand) or increasing drilling all across the shoreline (on the other).

It's not a false dichotomy -- you are saying the risk is too great to drill. I am saying if that's the case, lets stop drilling. I'm not saying that's the only two choices, I'm saying your premise (that drilling is too dangerous) necessarily requires the conclusion I proposed (stop drilling).

In other words, I'm pointing out that your own premise -- that drilling is too risky -- is false based on the fact that you have no problem with drilling right now.

Drilling assumes risk, a lot of risk as it turns out.

So lets stop doing it!

The environmental cost of that risk has to be weighed against the economic gains from the drilling. We are tapping into the largest oil reserves right now and the new drilling areas are not going to produce as much oil as our current production. And the risk to the environment is approximately the same (even smaller wells can dump hundreds of thousands of gallons into the ocean). Personally, we probably should cut back on offshore drilling. But at the very least, we don't need to assume greater risk. There is a NEED for some drilling in the Gulf. There is not a NEED for increased production.

And what you are doing now is making the REAL argument against offshore drilling -- that it will net us nothing in lower gas costs or freedom from foreign oil dependency -- and boostrapping this tragedy on it as a play on emotion.

You are creating a logical fallacy while accusing me of making one I never made.

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I saw the post. You seemed to be attributing it to me.

It's a horrible argument. See above.

I said "those who." I have the talent of referencing two posts in one, though I'll try to be clearer next time. For future reference though, I will say "you" if I'm referring to you with a statement like that.

As for the other part, no it's not a horrible argument. I do believe we need to stop all offshore drilling, though I'm not so naive as to think it can happen now. We need a long term commitment to switching to clean energy, the faster the better. A good step would be transferring all subsidies and tax credits that currently go to fossil fuel companies to clean energy companies.

It also complete ignores the point that new rigs have to go into deeper more dangerous water. This particular rig being a prime example.

Furthering the risk/reward point, here are the basic scenarios that can occur with new rigs (obviously simplified).

Scenario A: The rig is a complete success. The oil companies continue to receive ridiculous amounts of taxpayer money in the form of subsidies and tax breaks. The oil companies continue to make billions in profit. The effect on worldwide supply is almost nonexistent, and the savings to Americans is mere cents (and that's for many rigs, not just one). We continue to delude ourselves that we can continue into eternity with an oil-based economy. Edit: And the oil companies pay almost zero to zero in US income tax.

Scenario B: The rig has a major accident. The oil companies continue to receive ridiculous amounts of taxpayer money in the form of subsidies and tax breaks. The oil companies continue to make billions in profit. Taxpayers lose more money in the form economic loss (closed beaches, loss of tourism, destroyed fisheries, etc.). The oil companies pay some money for cleanup, then go to court to fight the rest (as they always have), so much of the expense is passed on yet again to the taxpayer. Ecological systems are wrecked. Edit: And the oil companies pay almost zero to zero in US income tax.

Neither situation is particularly beneficial to Americans. The only ones truly benefiting are the oil companies themselves.

Edited by The Monarch
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