BP spill settlement talks stall as U.S. demands $18 billion
LONDON (Reuters) - Talks between BP (LSE:BP.) and the U.S. government over a settlement for the 2010 oil spill have stalled because the U.S. is insisting that the British oil giant pay at least $18 billion, British newspaper the Sunday Times reported.
A settlement deal may not happen until early next year, the newspaper quoted sources close to the company as saying.
A settlement between $18 billion to $21 billion is near the level which BP would be required to pay should it be found grossly negligent under the Clean Water Act, said the paper.
BP, which declined to comment on the story, has always denied any liability for the United States' worst offshore environmental disaster.
Reports in July suggested that the U.S. was looking for a settlement of $25 billion.
The newspaper said that BP's board is split over whether to pay $18 billion or continue to push for a settlement at $15 billion, the level it is widely reported to be hoping to settle at.
Overall, nearly two million gallons of Corexit, BP’s dispersant of choice, were pumped into Gulf waters. Roughly 40% of that total was sprayed directly into the oil as it gushed from the wellhead. Injecting Corexit into the sea almost a mile below the surface was a Deepwater Horizon innovation, and the approach had never before been tested for its efficacy or its effects on deep ocean ecosystems. The decision to deploy Corexit in the deep sea, then, was a grand experiment that used one of the U.S.’ most important assets as its lab rat.
Not only did BP experimentally apply huge doses of chemicals to the Gulf, it choice of which chemicals to apply seems to have been made for dubious reasons. Nalco, Corexit’s manufacturer, makes two kinds of Corexit—Corexit 9527 and Corexit 9500A. Of the two, Corexit 9527 was the first to go into the water, despite not being the best dispersant available. Instead it seems that BP purged its warehouse of the stockpile they’d had on the shelves since the 1990s. Ron Tjeerdema, an environmental toxicologist who consulted for NOAA during the spill, said that he understood immediately that BP was “getting rid” of their old Corexit. “They’re kind of efficient in wanting to get the most out of their stockpiled dispersants,” he observed wryly.
In this case, BP had stockpiled a very toxic compound. Nalco no longer makes Corexit 9527 because it contains 2-butoxyethanol, a carcinogenic solvent linked to health problems during the Exxon Valdez cleanup: after the cleanup, Valdez response workers observed blood in their urine and were later diagnosed with kidney and liver disorders. Corexit 9527 has the same health rating as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Once BP had rid itself of its Corexit 9527 stocks, the company switched to the scarcely better Corexit 9500A – a chemical that’s listed as an “acute health hazard” and shares the same human health rating as jet fuel.
Some scientists and environmental groups suspect that BP’s choice to use Corexit was borne of Nalco’s intimate relationships with oil companies. Nalco and Exxon Mobile formed a joint venture in 1994, and there’s considerable oil industry representation in Nalco’s leadership, including an 11-year BP board member who is now a Nalco executive. Nonetheless, BP’s decision to use Corexit was wholly legal — Jackson, EPA administrator, says, “If it’s on the list and they want to use it, then they are preauthorized to do so.” Never mind that Nalco’s entire Corexit line was banned in the UK for the harm it does to marine life.
While the oil’s fate remains uncertain, the dispersants are clearly lingering. In November 2010 Dr. Elizabeth Kujawinski, a marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, announced that, while the Corexit injected into the deep sea had been diluted, it had “resisted rapid biodegradation.” “We don’t know if the dispersants broke up the oil,” she said. “We (also) found that (Corexit) didn’t go away, and that was somewhat surprising.” Dr. Kujawinski identified DOSS in her water samples, which is one of the compounds that caused health problems in the workers that cleaned up the Exxon Valdez spill. Clearly, Nalco’s claim that Corexit biodegrades completely in 28 days is false.
And it isn't going away. Other findings from monitoring sites between Waveland, Mississippi, and Cape San Blas, Florida over the past two years:
The use of Corexit is inhibiting the microbial degradation of hydrocarbons in the crude oil and has enabled concentrations of the organic pollutants known as PAH to stay above levels considered carcinogenic by the NIH and OSHA.
26 of 32 sampling sites in Florida and Alabama had PAH concentrations exceeding safe limits.
Only three locations were found free of PAH contamination.
Carcinogenic PAH compounds from the toxic tar are concentrating in surface layers of the beach and from there leaching into lower layers of beach sediment. This could potentially lead to contamination of groundwater sources.
This article was published in The Louisiana Weekly in the May 7, 2012 edition.
Dolphins are washing up dead while fish disappear as oil and dispersants from BP's 2010 spill lurk in Gulf waters and marshes. Last month, Riki Ott, marine toxicologist and former Alaska fisherwoman, said "the Gulf looks a lot like Prince William Sound," the site of the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. "Our collapse came four years in. I don't like what I'm seeing with Gulf shrimp, crabs and dolphins." She spoke at an April 20, town hall meeting on the spill at First Unitarian Universalist Church in New Orleans.
As sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico struggle for survival, it is clear that the worst of the covered up 2010 BP oil catastrophe Gulf Operation in and along the Gulf of Mexico coast is yet to come, according to New Orleans-based environmental attorney Stuart Smith, commenting on a new scientific research report.
“There’s an old saying in legal circles that the cover-up is always much worse than the initial crime,” Smith stated in his August 2 article, Something Really Disastrous Happening In The Gulf”: Research Proves Bp’s Dispersant Made Things Much, Much Worse.
Sea Turtles are among thousands of sea life still struggling to survive the 2010 BP oil gusher. People along the Gulf Coast are also struggling to survive not only the ongoing oil “spill,” but also the dispersant that has been used.
According to Smith, “the core of the ensuing cover-up carried out by BP with the blessing of the federal government — the massive, unprecedented spraying of a toxic chemical called Corexit in the hope that pushing the oil out of sight would also put it out of mind — was a catastrophe in and of itself.”
“Never has so much dispersant — some 1.8 million gallons — been deployed, and never was so much sprayed at the bottom of the sea floor, where its impact has never been studied,” states Smith, who is handling more than 1000 legal cases related to the BP oil catastrophe.
“Immediately, clean-up and recovery workers blamed the dispersant for an array of illnesses, while researchers speculated that so much Corexit in the food chain could have major impact on marine life — and the seafood that you eat.”
Smith referred to Alabama scientists who have recently established a new protocol for studying how Corexit deployed after the BP spill might have affected the food chain in the Gulf. They pumped water from the area near Mobile into 53-gallon drums, then compared control barrels and barrels with dispersant in roughly the proportions sprayed in 2010.
“Their findings are disturbing,” Smith says, including an AP report stating, “A study on possible effects of the 2010 BP oil spill indicates dispersants may have killed plankton — some of the ocean’s tiniest plants and creatures — and disrupted the food chain in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the nation’s richest seafood grounds.
The researchers found that, within days, the numbers of plant-like phytoplankton and ciliates — plankton that use hairlike cilia to move — increased under an oil slick, but dropped significantly in the drums with dispersant or dispersed oil, while the numbers of bacteria increased. The study was published Tuesday in PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed journal in the online Public Library of Science.
“In those tanks, all of the energy seems to get trapped in the bacterial side. There were lots of bacteria left but no bigger things. It’s like the middle part of the food web is taken away,” said lead researcher Alice Ortmann of the University of South Alabama and Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
“Microbes are too small for fish to eat. Ciliates, on the other hand, “graze” on microbes. Phytoplankton and cilates both get eaten by larger zooplankton, which are fodder for tiny crustaceans that, in turn, get eaten by small fish.”
The findings are “scary,” says Brian Crother, a biology professor at Southeastern Louisiana University.
“If these guys are on the money, they have pointed to something really disastrous happening in the Gulf,” Crother said.
Significance of this research cannot be understated, according to Smith who asserts, “This damage to the plankton could harm the food chain in ways that won’t show up for years.
“Experts quoted in the article noted that the herring population in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, flourishing in the late 1980s before the massive Exxon Valdez tanker spill, collapsed not right after the accident but four years later.
That herring population “never recovered. Never,” said Michael Crosby, senior vice president for research at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla.
“Remember, it’s only been two years since BP’s fiasco in the Gulf,” Smith says. “That’s turned out to be plenty of time for BP to spending millions of dollars on ads telling tourists to come back to the Gulf and to serve as a ‘sustainability partner’ of the 2012 Olympics in London. But that’s the fairy tale world of hype.
“In the reality-based world of science, the worst is yet to come.”