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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/2/10

Ship of State Sinks Along With Truth in Deepwater Horizon Disaster

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This writer has just spent the better part of a week driving the I-10 from Tallahassee to New Orleans before the Transocean/Deepwater Horizon well explosion morphed from an "incident" to a "catastrophe" in the mass media. We can no longer call this a "leak" or a "spill." It is literally a river of oil, flowing anywhere from 5,000 barrels a day to 25,000. Take your pick. Whatever the numbers, there is a very real scenario on the horizon which could have the oil grabbed by the Gulf Stream and sent clear on up the east coast of the United States. It is especially distressing to see media focus on the possibility of ruined beaches at the expense of ignoring the Gulf Coast wetlands that are nature's nursery for marine life.

Initially, being an old-school journalist, this writer was willing to give the "unified command" of the Coast Guard, NOAA, British Petroleum (BP), State and Federal officials the benefit of the doubt. Even when officials in charge of the staging area for boom and clean-up material on Woolmarket Road in Biloxi painted a yellow line on the driveway, across which no media could cross, the journalist in me thought, "Well it is private property, so it is within their right to do so."

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Now that the catastrophe has become big news, and satellite trucks rented by world media are gathering like hyenas for the kill in Venice, LA, "unified command" has decidedly changed its tune. Recognizing that BIG MEDIA views firsthand video and photos of oil lapping the shore with the same enthusiasm reserved for exclusive photos of Lindsay Lohan coming out of rehab, or Tiger Woods' mea culpa for bad behavior, media is now "invited" to embed.

Unified Command, Mobile, Ala. offers media availability. Media interested in attending should call the Unified Command Joint Information Center, Mobile, Ala., at (251) 445-8965 before 7 p.m May 2, 2010. Members of the media will need to be escorted onto the base and should arrive at the NAS Pensacola West Gate no later than 9:30 a. m.

Sorry. Thank, but no thanks. I'm not going to (em) bed. I saw the controlled Coast Guard photos that came out of Venice, LA the very same day I was there. Fishing vessels and cleanup vessels were stuck in port due to high seas and winds. The booms that were already in place were being over-washed with water and oil, had sunk, or had been disrupted. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told media oily water was lapping over the booms set at the Birdsfoot Delta area. The "official photos" were staged in such a way as to make it look like the booms were in place at sea. This was not true.

Here is what we saw:

Here is Coast Guard Press photo:

Here is Associated Press photo of ineffective booms:

There is no doubt that men and women worked very hard to load all of the boom material aboard the vessels in Venice. It is the context in which the "official" photos are presented which is the problem. The booms have been stuck in port for at least three days now in Louisiana due to high seas. The Coast Guard should have said that in their official release.

Today, NOAA is restricting fishing for a minimum of ten days in federal waters most affected by the BP oil spill, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida's Pensacola Bay. The closure is effective immediately. This has the potential to result in economic devastation for an already battered Gulf Coast fishing industry.

Statement from Harlon Pearce, Chairman, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board:

"The precautionary closure of the federal waters off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and part of Florida is a necessary action to insure the citizens of the United States and abroad that our seafood will maintain the highest level of quality we expect from the Gulf of Mexico. As chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, I applaud Dr. Lubchenco's decision to insure everyone that all seafood in the Gulf is of the highest quality and is safe to eat."

The Gulf Coast river of oil has the potential to surpass the Exxon Valdez in terms of total gallons of oil -- making it the largest oil spill in U.S. history. When confronted with calculations supplied by whistle blowers at SkyTruth, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen didn't dispute the calculations at a phone press conference on Saturday, but said "any exact estimate is probably impossible at this point." This is a far cry from denials that were issued by BP and "unified command" at three previous phone press conferences, which we attended.

Dr. Ian MacDonald at FSU just produced a new spill-size estimate based on the US Coast Guard aerial over flight map of the oil slick on April 28, 2010. The bottom line: that map implies that on April 28, there was a total of 8.9 million gallons floating on the surface of the Gulf.

That implies a minimum average flow rate of slightly more than 1 million gallons of oil (26,000 barrels) per day from the leaking well on the seafloor. Since we're now in Day 11 of the spill, which began with a blowout and explosion on April 20, we estimate that by the end of the today 12.2 million gallons of oil, at a minimum, have been spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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