Oil Spill Update: Two More Birds Recovering, BP and Other Execs Point Fingers, and More

Brown pelican at Breton NWR, 5/4/10 (Photo by Tom MacKenzie, USFWS)

Yesterday marked three weeks since the Deepwater Horizon incident began. Here's a look at some recent developments, including two more birds awaiting release, hearings related to the spill, and more.

Audubon on the Ground
Two more oiled birds were cleaned and are recuperating, awaiting release, according to National Audubon Society’s Melanie Driscoll. Cleanup crew and volunteers are ready to help. So far, more than 12,000 people have signed up for Audubon’s volunteer database since it started last week. (Click here to register as a volunteer and see how else you can help.) Some of these volunteers have already been part of an emergency transport crew, moving birds—mostly injured, some oiled—to rehab centers. In the next two months, 250 of these volunteers will be deployed to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with rescue and cleanup efforts.
Ten birds have died, Driscoll reported. “Many birds are going into the Gulf waters to feed, then returning to the middle of the nesting colony,” she said. But she added a positive note: “The oil spill has come in more subtle and less overwhelming than initially thought.” Track Audubon’s oil spill work with posts from David Ringer of the Mississippi River Initiative, and Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation, who are both now on the scene.

NOAA 24-hour spill trajectory, prepared 5/11/10 at 8 p.m. Click here for a guide to understanding the map.

Oil Reaches More Louisiana Coastline
Fish and Wildlife helicopter surveys yesterday confirmed that oil has reached Louisiana’s Whiskey Island and the western edge of South Pass. Slicks also are heading toward Raccoon Island, home to Louisiana’s largest brown pelican colony.
The oil could eventually affect more than two dozen national wildlife refuges, including seven in Louisiana, one in Alabama and 18 in Florida. Audubon identified 59 coastal IBAs potentially at risk. Check in later this week for details about the possible harm to Florida’s Everglades. 
The White House Responds
In the first governmental regulatory step since the April 20 oil spill, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar yesterday announced a proposal to divide the Minerals Management Service—the agency that oversees offshore drilling—into two parts, The New York Times reported. One half will give out drilling leases and collect cash; the other, in the form of a new Office of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, will enforce safety standards and oversee the oil.
Earlier this week, President Obama met with several Cabinet and senior administration officials—including Salazar, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu—to review what steps BP has taken to try to contain the mess and to stress the need to consider all options to stop the mess of oil spewing into the water every day.
Companies Blame Each Other for Spill
When asked what caused the oil spill, officials from BP, Transocean Ltd and Halliburton pointed fingers at each other during Tuesday’s Congressional hearings, the first of several on the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported (Note: A WSJ subscription needed to access full article). BP blamed Transocean. Halliburton executive Tim Probert said that Halliburton “is contractually bound to comply with the well owner’s instructions on all matters relating to the performance of all work-related activities.” You get the idea.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, ranking member of the Committee of Energy & Natural Resources, which ran the hearings told the men to own up: “I would suggest to all three of you that we are all in this together.”
Murkowski, a proponent of offshore drilling, reminded the room of its potential hazards. “The production of energy will never be without risk or environmental consequence,” she said at the start of the hearings. “Offshore development does carry risks to both human and marine life, as well as the livelihoods of our coastal citizens, so government and industry must never grow complacent and always strive to minimize those risks.” 
Another hearing in Kenner, Louisiana took place simultaneously, with questioning of U.S. Coast Guard and MMS officials. Day two of the hearing is scheduled for today.

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