It has been almost five years since an explosion and fire destroyed BP's Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, releasing uncounted tons of oil into the gulf and fouling beaches in Louisiana and Alabama. This spring, BP-funded crews are still cleaning up oil residue in a few Gulf Coast beach locations, according to a report by New Orleans CBS TV station WWL-TV (see: "Tar mat uncovered as BP report downplays oil spill impact"). Meanwhile, the oil giant is also devoting its energy to influencing the public's views about the spill and its effects.
"The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority reported that a BP contractor had collected about 22,000 pounds of oiled material and coagulated sand in the surf and beachhead of Grand Terre II, or East Grand Terre, a key barrier island about 5 miles east of Grand Isle, in the mouth of Barataria Bay," reports the Baton Rouge Advocate (see: "WWL-TV report: BP cleaning up large tar mat on barrier island"). "That's more than seven times the amount of oiled material that has been collected in Louisiana in the past year, and more than four times the amount that has been reported to the Coast Guard across the whole Gulf Coast."
The report comes as BP is working hard to influence public perception of the aftermath and lingering effects of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. A study of the disaster's long-term consequences by Florida State University professor Jeff Chanton concluded that 5% of the oil release sank to the bottom of the gulf, where it may damage area ecosystems for years. But BP is criticizing the report on a company website, questioning the professor's methodology and conclusions. Bloomberg Business has that story (see: "BP Labors to Cast Doubt on Gulf Spill Study It Dislikes," by Bryan Gruley and Bradley Olson).
Writes Bloomberg: "As the five-year anniversary of the spill nears, BP is waging a public campaign to promote the idea that the gulf has largely recovered. The company's public statements have hewed closer to the adversarial tone of litigation than the conciliatory stance the company struck immediately following the well blowout, which killed 11 men and fouled Gulf Coast beaches from Texas to Florida."
"On its State of the Gulf website, in speeches and on social media, BP has criticized researchers, plaintiffs' lawyers and the media for "sensationalizing" environmental damage to the gulf," Bloomberg reports.
On March 16, BP released its own overview report on the Gulf's recovery, taking a generally optimistic stance: "Areas that were affected are recovering and data BP has collected and analyzed to date do not indicate a significant long-term impact to the population of any Gulf species," wrote BP Executive Vice President Laura Folse in an introduction. But government scientists and academic experts criticized the report as unbalanced and premature, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune (see: "BP report says Gulf rebounding, but government officials, environmentalists dismiss results as 'cherry-picked'," by Mark Schleifstein).
Reports the Times-Picayune: "'It is inappropriate as well as premature for BP to reach conclusions about impacts from the spill before the completion of the assessment,' said a statement released by the trustee council through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is the lead federal trustee for the spill. 'Citing scientific studies conducted by experts from around the Gulf, as well as this council, BP misinterprets and misapplies data while ignoring published literature that doesn't support its claims and attempts to obscure our role as caretakers of the critical resources damaged by the spill,' the trustees' statement said."