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The 90 Day Plan

Friday, June 11, 2010

Facing a freeze

WHEN BP's Macondo well began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the
firm was in the midst of an effort to persuade Canada's energy
regulator that safety standards for offshore drilling in the Canadian
Arctic were expensive, impractical and should be relaxed. Hearings on
the subject were promptly suspended and the regulator declared that no
new drilling permits would be issued pending a review of existing
rules. "We have a duty to pause, to take stock of the incident," says
Gaétan Caron, head of the National Energy Board.

For a time it looked as though the Arctic would be the next frontier
for Western oil firms, which have only limited access to the most
promising prospects in sunnier climes. The retreat of the polar ice
cap is making the region easier to work in, and there is thought to be
lots of oil and gas to tap. But Canada is not the only country now
thinking twice: America, Norway and even Russia are all contemplating
tighter rules for drilling.

Canada's stay on drilling, like a similar one imposed in America, is
temporary. But environmental groups and some indigenous people
advocate more lasting restrictions, on the ground that the Arctic is
particularly ecologically fragile, far from clean-up crews and
blanketed for much of the year in oil-trapping ice.

A vigorous argument about whether to open pristine bits of coastline
to drilling had already been under way in Norway. The spill has made a
big impression in the country, says Kristin Halvorsen, who leads one
of the parties in the governing coalition and opposes the expansion,
"because it shows that even with a lot of security measures and top
modern technology, you can't insure against accidents when you are
working with oil." The row is threatening to undermine the coalition,
with the prime minister refusing to rule out further drilling.

Russia's parliament, too, has begun debating updated environmental
laws to address offshore spills—a move the government supports. Only
Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory with high hopes for an
oil-fuelled bonanza, is pressing ahead undaunted with plans to expand
oil exploration. Its government has approved drilling this summer in
Baffin Bay, close to its maritime boundary with Canada. That decision
has alarmed Jim Prentice, Canada's environment minister, who wants the
highest environmental standards to be applied.

Mr Prentice and his counterparts from other Arctic states met in
Greenland this week, to discuss offshore drilling among other topics.
The oil industry is relatively confident that their response to events
farther south will not be too restrictive. After all, if the Arctic
does not provide new supplies of oil, they will have to be obtained
somewhere else. As Benoit Beauchamp of the Arctic Institute of North
America, a Canadian research outfit, notes: "That somewhere else might
be the oil sands, which have their own environmental problems, or it
could be coming from places where you have to deal with warlords and
terrorists, like Africa, or the Middle East, where we pretty much have
to send armies to protect the oil and gas."

The Economist Newspaper | Business

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Government Raises Estimate Of Oil Flow to 20,000 to 40,000 Barrels A Day, More Or Less

The Obama administration has once again increased its estimate of the
flow of oil from BP's blown-out well.

Three different groups of scientists making educated guesses have come
up with upper and lower ranges that go as low as 12,600 barrels a day
and as high as 50,000 barrels a day. Marcia McNutt, the federal
official charged with determining the flow rate, cited the range of
about 20,000 to 40,000 barrels a day as the official estimate.

All those numbers come with the caveat that they estimate the flow
from the well before a kinked riser pipe was lopped off on June 3, a
move that inevitably increased the flow, although to what extent
remains unclear.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told lawmakers on Wednesday that the
riser cut increased flow four to five percent -- though given the
extraordinary range of guesses involved, it's hard to fathom how he
could be so sure.

The new numbers could still be low. One member of the flow group told
reporters earlier this week that the flow could well be 100,000
barrels a day. But the actual flow rates are certainly much higher
than the 5,000 barrel a day figure that the government stuck to long
after the first video from the well head made it clear the real number
was magnitudes higher.

"This is obviously a challenging scientific issue, since the leak is
located a mile beneath the ocean," McNutt, the head of the U.S.
Geologic Service, told reporters in a conference call.

One of the teams of scientists -- led by Richard Camilli of the Woods
Hole Oceanographic Institution -- is new to the government's
estimating group. McNutt said that team is using acoustic technology
to measure the flow rate.

Yet another team, this one led by Energy Secretary and Nobel Laureate
Steven Chu, is analyzing differential pressure readings they demanded
BP provide from both inside and outside the new containment cap, but
McNutt said their measurements are not yet complete.

These estimates still carry with them a great deal of uncertainty. One
group estimated a range from 12,600 to 21,500 barrels a day; another
estimated a range from 25,000 to 50,000 barrels a day. In other words,
both of them can't be right.

At 40,000 barrels (1.7 million gallons) a day, over 52 days, that
would mean the blown-out well has belched over 2 million barrels (88
million gallons) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico -- and somewhere
around that much gas as well. The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill was
estimated at about 250,000 barrels, which would make this spill at
least 8 times as big, and counting.

Dan Froomkin | HuffPost Reporting Become a Fan Get
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No mo' po'?

THE world abounds in sandwiches, but in your correspondent's view
there are only three truly great ones: the Vietnamese banh mi, the
Ashkenazi bagel with lox and the oyster po' boy—a New Orleans creation
that has seeped outward from the bayou with varying degrees of success
(ordering one in Mobile or Galveston is probably fine; order one in
Boston at your own risk). It is a testament to America's assimilating
capacity that the first two can be made fairly successfully with
ingredients available at any major supermarket. The last depends on a
highly regional commodity: the fat, sweet Gulf of Mexico oyster,
pulled from waters very near those fouled daily by thousands of
gallons of the Deepwater Horizon's oil.

In 2008 the five states with oystering operations on the gulf—Texas,
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida (see map)—harvested 20.6m
pounds (9.3m kg) of oysters, worth some $60.2m. They are not the most
valuable species harvested from the gulf—that honour goes to the gulf
shrimp—but they may be the hardest to replace. While 83% of seafood
eaten in America is imported, most oysters are not, and more than
two-thirds of the oysters consumed there come from the gulf.

That percentage is likely to drop drastically this year. The federal
government has closed more than 78,000 square miles (202,000 square
km) of the Gulf of Mexico, nearly one-third of total federal gulf
water, to all fishing. State governments have followed suit;
Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have all closed large swathes as
well. Florida, meanwhile, has lifted some restrictions on the
Apalachicola Bay—home to the south-east's best half-shell oysters—to
allow oystermen to gather as many as possible while the water remains
clean, in anticipation of future closings.

How long the areas will remain closed, and what the ultimate damage
will be, remains unclear. Oysters metabolise oil poorly, and molluscs,
being filter feeders, run a high risk of exposure. The season's real
damage may be done already. Customers are staying away, both from the
seafood and the region itself, which depends on summer tourism.
Indeed, John Ray Nelson, who owns Bon Secour Fisheries in Bon Secour,
Alabama, said that the area has been hurt less by the spill itself
than by "the media, always looking for a tarball on the beach".

The Economist Newspaper | United States

BP Now Valued At Less Than Its Assets

GRAND ISLE, La. (AP) -- The financial toll of the oil spill disaster
in the Gulf of Mexico escalated Wednesday as BP's stock plummeted to a
14-year low and fishermen, businesses and property owners who have
filed damage claims with the company angrily complained of delays,
excessive paperwork and skimpy payments that have put them on the
verge of going under.

The oil company captured an ever larger-share of the crude gushing
from the bottom of the sea and began bringing in more heavy equipment
to help in the effort, including a production ship and a tanker from
the North Sea that will allow the system to process larger quantities
of oil and better withstand tropical storms.

The containment efforts played out as investors deserted BP amid fears
that the company might be forced to suspend dividends, end up in
bankruptcy and find itself overwhelmed by the cleanup costs,
penalties, damage claims and lawsuits generated by the biggest oil
spill in U.S. history.

Shrimpers, oystermen, seafood businesses, out-of-work drilling crews
and the tourism industry all are lining up to get paid back the
billions of dollars washed away by the disaster, and tempers have
flared as locals direct outrage at BP over what they see as a tangle
of red tape.

"Every day we call the adjuster eight or 10 times. There's no answer,
no answering machine," said Regina Shipp, who has filed $33,000 in
claims for lost business at her restaurant in Alabama. "If BP doesn't
pay us within two months, we'll be out of business. We've got two

An Alabama property owner who has lost vast sums of rental income
angrily confronted a BP executive at a town meeting. The owner of a
Mississippi seafood restaurant said she is desperately waiting for a
check to come through because fewer customers come by for shrimp
po-boys and oyster sandwiches.

Some locals see dark parallels to what happened after Hurricane
Katrina, when they had to wait years to get reimbursed for losses.

"It really feels like we are getting a double whammy here. When does
it end?" said Mark Glago, a New Orleans lawyer who is representing a
fishing boat captain in a claim against BP.

BP spokesman Mark Proegler disputed any notion that the claims process
is slow or that the company is dragging its feet.

Proegler said BP has cut the time to process claims and issue a check
from 45 days to as little as 48 hours, provided the necessary
documentation has been supplied. BP officials acknowledged that while
no claims have been denied, thousands and thousands of claims had not
been paid by late last week because the company required more

At the bottom of the sea, the containment cap on the ruptured well is
capturing 630,000 gallons a day and pumping it to a ship at the
surface, and the amount could nearly double by next week to roughly
1.17 million gallons, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is
overseeing the crisis for the government.

A second drilling vessel that will arrive within days is expected to
greatly boost capacity. BP also plans to bring in the tanker from the
North Sea on Monday to help transport oil and an incinerator to burn
off some of the crude. The tanker is currently used to shuttle oil
from North Sea rigs to the shores of Scotland, and its deployment in
the Gulf has been part of the broader plan to expand the amount of
crude brought to the surface once a new and improved
cap-and-collection system is installed over the leaking well.

The government has estimated 600,000 to 1.2 million gallons are
leaking per day, but a scientist on a task force studying the flow
said the actual rate may be between 798,000 gallons and 1.8 million.

Crews working at the site toiled under oppressive conditions as the
heat index soared to 110 degrees and toxic vapors emanated from the
depths. Fireboats were on hand to pour water on the surface to ease
the fumes.

Allen also confronted BP over the complaints about the claims process,
warning the company in a letter: "We need complete, ongoing
transparency into BP's claims process including detailed information
on how claims are being evaluated, how payment amounts are being
calculated and how quickly claims are being processed."

The admiral this week created a team including officials from the
Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with the damage claims. It
will send workers into Gulf communities to provide information about
the process. He also planned to discuss the complaints with BP
officials Wednesday.

Under federal law, BP is required to pay for a range of damage,
including property losses and lost earnings. Residents and businesses
can call a telephone line to report losses, file a claim online and
seek help at one of 25 claims offices around the Gulf. Deckhands and
other fishermen generally need to show a photo ID and documentation
such as a pay stub showing how much money they typically earn.

To jump-start the process, BP was initially offering an immediate
$2,500 to deckhands and $5,000 to fishing boat owners. Workers can
receive additional compensation once their paperwork and larger claims
are approved. BP said it has paid 18,000 claims so far and has hired
600 adjusters and operators to handle the cases.

The oil giant said it expects to spend $84 million through June alone
to compensate people for lost wages and profits. That number could
grow as new claims are received. When it is all over, BP could be
looking at total liabilities in the billions, perhaps tens of
billions, according to analysts.

BP stock dropped $5.45, or 16 percent, Wednesday - easily its worst
day since the April 20 rig explosion that set off the spill. In the
seven weeks since then, the company has lost half its market value.

The latest slide came after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar promised a
Senate energy panel to ask BP to compensate energy companies for
losses if they have to lay off workers or suffer economically because
of the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater

Calculating what is owed to victims of the spill has proved challenging.

David Walter owns an Alabama company that makes artificial reefs that
anglers buy and drop in the Gulf to attract fish, but state regulators
stopped issuing permits for the reefs on May 4 because of the oil
spill - effectively killing off $350,000 in expected business.

When Walter called a claims adjuster working for BP, he was told to
provide four years of invoices for May, June and July along with tax
returns for those years. Walter said he sent the forms by overnight
mail, but the adjuster assigned to his case changed offices and could
not be found. The documents were lost.

After making more inquiries, Walter said, he was instructed to gather
the same documents and this time go to a claims office. There, an
adjuster told Walter he would be eligible for only a $5,000 payment
since his tax returns showed a technical business loss when
depreciation was factored in.

"I said that's not fair because if you say that, then I have to go out
of business and I lose everything," Walter said. He is now working
with an accounting firm to calculate his losses.

Not everyone had complaints about the claims process.

Bart Harrison of Clay, Ala., filed his first claim on Wednesday
morning for lost rental income on his coastal property and expected to
have a check for $1,010 within a few hours. The only documentation
required was tax returns and rental histories for his units, which
were both easy to provide.

"The guy I talked to was knowledgeable and respectful. It seemed like
he really wanted to write a check and please me since it was my first
time in," Harrison said.

Monday, June 7, 2010


And we thought it was bad before!

Going on a tip from Sky Truth, world renowned photographer Henry Fair, SouthWings pilot Tom Hutchings and Hurricane Creekkeeper, John L. Wathen Flew a photo mission over the BP Slick and beyond. At about 12 miles off the mouth of the Mississippi River we encountered another leaking oil rig! The plume was either coming from the drilling operation or the boat itself. In any case it is large enough to be reported.

Below The Surface Paddles California!

Below the Surface Mid west Team Leader Kristian Gustavson kicked off the first of nine Preservation Paddle Outs yesterday in La Jolla Cove. True to the Below the Surface model, a small number of activists are out and exploring, checking out these areas to see and share the responsibility we all have for protecting these under water state parks.

The team will be making its way north, led by Mid West Team Leader Kristian Gustavson and Coastal Team Leader Jared Criscuolo, James Pribram, the "EcoWarrior" and Jodie Nelson of the SUP Spot. They'll meet with leaders from the Waterkeepers Alliance, Surfrider, Natural Resources Defenese Council, Ocean Conservancy, and other organizations up the coast of California.

Click Here for more information!

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