Environmental Report Card Finds Business As Usual in Gulf One Year After the Biggest Oil Spill in U. S. History

San Francisco – The nonprofit Turtle Island Restoration Network released a report card today blasting federal agencies for their failure to implement any new measures to protect endangered sea turtles, the marine environment, or coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico from offshore drilling accidents one year after the beginning of the BP oil spill. A grade of F for fail or D for dismal was assigned to all agencies including President Obama and the Unified Command led by Admiral Thad Allen during the oil spill in 2010.

Click here to download the color pdf Report Card. 

At the heart of the issue is the lack of any improved environmental protection laws to address the deadly impacts to endangered species and coastal wetlands from offshore oil operations in the Gulf. Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has resumed, all fishing areas have been re-opened, and business as usual proceeds in the Gulf as if the BP oil spill never happened.

“Federal agencies have failed us,” said Chris Pincetich, Ph.D. of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network who helped research and compile the report card. “Gulf coast residents, the marine ecosystem, and endangered sea turtles are suffering and dying every day. There is very little trust left, and even less hope.”

“The fossil fuel frenzy has overrun the Gulf and the oil companies just don’t care how much damage they do here or anywhere,” said Teri Shore, Program Director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Federal reports indicate that over 250 sea turtles have stranded dead on Gulf beaches in 2011, more than is typically reported in an entire year. In April alone, over 130 dead sea turtles, most of which are critically endangered Kemp’s ridleys, have washed up on Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana beaches. Concerns about oil and chemical dispersant toxicity from the long-term exposures combined with impacts from shrimp trawling are being discussed as the possible cause.

“Shrimp trawls can mix any BP oil still on the bottom back into the food web every time they drop their nets,” said Pincetich, a doctorate in environmental toxicology. “Oil exposure can limit the ability of red blood cells to hold oxygen, and this is critical to the survival of a sea turtle caught in a shrimp net.”

However, ongoing criminal investigations into the recent deaths of hundreds of sea turtles and dolphins dying along Gulf shores have severely limited information available to the public. Dead wildlife recovered on beaches is likely only a fraction of the total.

“I’ve been working to save sea turtles for over 20 years and this year is one of the worst I have seen for Kemp’s ridleys.” said Carole Allen, Gulf Director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. “I hope we see action soon to protect all Gulf sea turtles.”

Environmental Report Card on the BP Oil Spill

One year has passed since the catastrophic BP oil spill began. Today, record numbers of dead sea turtles and dolphins are still washing up dead on Gulf beaches, oil is still getting hauled up in nets by fishermen, and offshore oil drilling in the Gulf has resumed without any new laws to prevent a duplicate catastrophe or ensure that the Gulf will be fully restored.

Federal response actions have failed. They’ve failed to protect the marine and coastal environment from the deadly impacts of offshore oil, failed to earn respect and trust from Gulf coastal communities, failed to act quickly in the interest of the public and natural resources, and failed to make meaningful change to correct the physical, emotional, environmental and economic losses in the Gulf.

Congress; F, fail
One year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history, and Congress has not passed any new laws to change a corrupt and broken regulatory approval system for offshore oil operations nor has it taken steps to secure funding for restoration.
Environmental Protection Agency; D, dismal
The EPA published many warnings on the effects of oil, volatile chemicals, and chemical dispersants. They then proceeded to ignore their own warnings. EPA approved chemical dispersant use near coastal communities and released a flawed risk statement on Gulf seafood safety that grossly underestimated weekly average seafood consumption by Gulf locals and therefore their oil intake exposure.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation & Enforcement; F, fail
BOEMRE’s complete lack of new environmental protections for oil and gas leasing in the Gulf prior to issuing new offshore drilling permits has earned them the moniker “BUMMER” by oceans conservation workers.
National Marine Fisheries Service; D, dismal
Dead sea turtles by the hundreds were linked to fisheries interactions during the spill as experts were drafting rescue plans that were not fully implemented until the end of the oil spill. Re-opening of fishing areas where oil was pulled up with shrimp likely resulted in tainted seafood at local markets. Lessons were learned, but no new laws exist.
Unified Command; F, fail
Assembled with the best intentions, this military-industrial partnership silenced the voices of locals, forced workers to into unsafe conditions, perpetrated policies in violation of the U.S. constitution, and worked under a blanket of secrecy.
President Obama; D, dismal
The President’s Commission report called for “systematic changes” to improve offshore oil safety, a step in the right direction, but failed to implement any significant new environmental safety laws before offshore drilling in the Gulf was re-opened for business.