As Oil Comes Ashore at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Republican Calls for Renewed Drilling Along Outer Continental Shelf

Oil impacts at Gulf Islands National Seashore range from tar balls to suspended oil. NPS photos.

More oil was coming ashore Friday in parts of Gulf Islands National Seashore, with tar balls several inches in diameter seen near Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island.

In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, a top Republican was calling for the Obama administration to lift its moratorium on off-shore drilling.

At the national seashore, Warren Bielenberg, a retired National Park Service staffer called in to help the strained agency respond to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, said that Friday was the first time tar balls had been spotted on Santa Rosa Island.

“It was pretty minimal, but it was there for the first time. There was one area maybe 10 by 20 feet that I counted about nine from the size of an eraser to a 3-inch by 4-inch glop," said Mr. Bielenberg.

Earlier this week a 2-mile-long oil slick carrying tar balls came ashore at Petit Bois Island at the national seashore.

Further east in the gulf, no impacts from the disaster were reported Friday at Dry Tortugas, Everglades, or Biscayne national parks, nor at De Soto National Memorial or Big Cypress National Preserve. At all those parks operations were running normally.

In Washington, meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, a Republican from Washington state, lamented the drilling moratorium placed on the Outer Continental Shelf.

"This action could cost an estimated 46,000-120,000 jobs, primarily in the Gulf region where they can least afford to lose more employment opportunities," said Congressman Hastings, the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee. "We all share the goal of wanting America’s offshore drilling to be the safest in the world and our immediate focus should continue to be on stopping the leak, containing the spill and protecting the shoreline. However we cannot lose sight of the significant economic impact that deepwater drilling has on jobs, our economy and our energy security.”

While the Park Service has deployed two incident management teams to respond to oil impacts in the Gulf, the agency is clearly stretched thin by the incident. That's evidenced by the need to call in retired personnel to help out and by the reassigning of personnel -- including park superintendents -- from as far away as Sequoia National Park to help provide assistance.

Comments

Yesterday BP admitted that they have neither the equipment nor the procedures to deal with accidents at deep water drillings. They are doing everything in the catastrophic spill on the fly.

In my opinion it would be lunatic to allow any deep water drilling even to continue where already started, not to mention opening new sites, unless proper equipment to deal with accidents has been developed and sufficiently tested.

Calling in recently retired NPS folks is only a part of the DOI response (both FWS & NPS areas are affected). Pretty much anybody in NPS with database, GIS, or field ecology skills is being asked to accept 2-4 week details to Mobile or elsewhere to help out. Folks appear to be working 12 hour days & 7 day weeks (I'm glad BP is paying and not the core NPS budget!), which can leave them pretty burned out when they return and try to catch up on the backlog at their primary jobs.

Perhaps they should lift the ban on nuclear power plants and put those folks to work. Nuclear plants will have to be decriminalized at some point. They are safer and cleaner than any other source of energy(aside from largely inefficient solar).

What will prove to be the costliest oil spill in history is followed by calls to drill more. Am I the only one to see a problem with this? "Drill baby drill" should be left as a cry of passion rather than the call for risky exploration that is proving to be a mortal threat to our environment.

Unfortunately, the behavior of this Congressman reflects once again: we are addicted.

I heard a Mayor on the radio from the Gulf first talk with grief about how devasted her fishing industry was, and then explain why she had told President Obama the day before NOT to implement the planned moritorium on drilling, because the only other industry she's got is oil and fears the loss of those jobs as well.

Imagine how freaked out everybody would be if we really developed alternative energy, and got off oil. Among other states, the economy of Louisiana floats on oil.

Of course, at some point, either by sensible planning or because the oil will have run out, the industry ultimately is doomed if it primarily sees itself as providing fuels for burning rather than complex and useful chemicals. America won't be the first country whose economy went down for failure to disengage in time from dependence on old industry. England and the UK saw its economy dissolve in the first half of the Twentieth Cent. when its coal and steel industries collapsed.

The first priority insofar as the NPS is concerned should be to mount a comprehensive effort to document spill impacts to park lands and resources. The temptation will be to place booms and other barriers intended to minimize the oil reaching the shore and invading sensitive habitats and to prepare to rescue oiled birds and other wildlife. Public safety will be an important concern possibly requiring the closure of some shorelines to visitors. Possibly some endangered wildlife can be relocated to safe areas, although this would be difficult. Hopefully, the Service will be able to resist political pressures to engage in hugely expensive and largely fruitless efforts to try to hold back the seas. Hopefully, an important lesson learned during the Exxon Valdez spill won't be forgotten. The clean up efforts often exacerbated the damage of the oil spill.