The mainstream media has reported how BP's contracts bar clean-up workers from talking with media, and how "minders" or monitors protect workers on the beach from the media. Does BP also feel the need to protect two well-respected organizations that it hired to lead the wildlife recovery effort: Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research and International Bird Rescue Research Center. News reports don't always mention that the groups were hired by BP, but as with other workers, Tri-State had to sign a contract with BP that "restricted media access."
Tri-State has rehab treatment centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Some wildlife rehabilitation centers have names different from the lead agencies, such as the Pensacola Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center that was launched in May by Tri-State. However, apparently all workers, whether they work for BP or for private contractors who work for BP, have been told not to talk to the press.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides official figures on the number of critters harmed or killed and some of these figures are based on reports from rehab centers. The US Fish and Wildlife Service says that it does not have the resources to handle all the wildlife affected by this oil mess, noting that:
"I also just don’t believe that BP or their contractor would have any incentive to skew the data," he said. "Even if they did, there are too many federal, state and local eyes keeping watch on them."
One incentive to skew data is to reduce their liability. Environmental officials are "feverishly collecting water, sediment and marine animal tissue samples that will be used in the coming months to help track pollution levels resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill." This data can affect "hundreds of millions of dollars" because the pollution level readings will be "used by the federal government and courts to establish liability claims against BP."
However, some question the independence of the lab chosen to process "virtually all of the samples" due to a conflict of interest because the laboratory is "part of an oil and gas services company in Texas that counts oil firms, including BP, among its biggest clients." In fact, "local animal rescue workers have volunteered to help treat birds affected by the slick and to collect data that would also be used to help calculate penalties for the spill. But federal officials have told the volunteers that the work must be done by a company hired by BP."
While BP has incentive to skew data, I will trust the wildlife organizations to not be complicit until evidence indicates otherwise. The real concern now is controlling media access to shape or mold what information is publicly distributed about wildlife harmed or killed by this disaster. For example, the pictures distributed by BP on recovery and washing of birds and wildlife are far less offensive than the pictures we've seen by the media of wildlife soaking or swimming in oil.
Tonight's climate change news roundup includes some more news:
- 8 National Parks Threatened by Oil Spill.
- BP Plans to Sell Oil Recovered from Gulf Spill.
Fill her up with spill oil? When BP sells the crude from the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil could end up at gas stations.
BP said it would use the net revenue made from selling the crude to fund wildlife protection efforts in four Gulf Coast states, the Associated Press reports.
The company did not explain the specifics of how much money will be put into the fund.
- Despite finding 200 violations in Gulf drilling operations over the past five years, MMS collected only 16 fines.
BP and the other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster face a host of potential fines under various environmental and safety laws, but a recent Houston Chronicle investigation found that few fines are ever actually collected after drilling accidents.
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) — the troubled federal agency which is supposed to regulate the oil and gas industry — collected only 16 fines out of the 400 investigations it conducted into Gulf of Mexico drilling incidents in the past five years. MMS found about 200 violations of safety and environmental regulations, but "many proposed violations get reduced or dropped during behind-the-scenes reviews".
- Transocean and Justice Dept resolve liability spat: The company did not mean to restrict claims under a 1990 law on oil spills, but proposed a court order that "excluded any claims or penalties that may be sought by the Obama administration and states under federal pollution and environmental laws."
- BP’s Google buy aims to attract oil spill web traffic.
The latest raft of criticism follows recent news that the company purchased search terms for Google to direct users to the BP website’s information on clean-up efforts.
A search by ABC News for the words "oil spill" in the news portion of Google.com resulted in a highlighted link with the words "Learn more about how BP is helping," on the tagline. BP spokesman Toby Odone said the goal was to make information more accessible.
CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY
- Legally Binding Climate Deal Likely in 2011, UN’S De Boer Says.
- Europe, US to see snowy, cold winters: expert: "While it may seem counter-intuitive, warmer Arctic climes caused by climate change influence air pressure at the North Pole, shifting wind patterns in such a way as to boost cooling over adjacent swathes of the planet."
- Wind Companies to Buy More U.S. Parts in Agreement With Unions and a labor union promised to "join in lobbying Congress for a requirement to use more renewable energy."
- Public Warms to Climate Change.
The American media has established a narrative that climate science is becoming more controversial, and public confidence in that science is waning. But does this narrative accurately reflect public opinion? Two new polls suggest the answer is no.
[T]he most recent polling, from groups that specialize in gauging public opinion of climate change, indicate that he is out of step with the American public. The polls, one from Stanford and another from Yale and George Mason Universities, show the slide in public support for manmade climate change, as well as policies to address it, has halted.
According to both new polls, a majority of Americans remain convinced that climate change is occurring, and is caused at least in part by human activities. Furthermore, a large majority supports policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including regulating carbon dioxide — the primary greenhouse gas — as a pollutant.
- Study: Shrinking Glaciers To Spark Food Shortages.
Nearly 60 million people living around the Himalayas will suffer food shortages in the coming decades as glaciers shrink and the water sources for crops dry up, a study said Thursday.
- Trees shift upward as climate warms, data show.
Some forests and groups of vegetation have begun moving upward to higher elevations, or northward to higher latitudes to meet the climate change, while others in areas that are drying are shifting southward toward greater sources of moisture, the researchers say.
- Cape lobster industry faces crisis.
In what could be the first major economic blow to local fisheries pinned on global warming, regulators are contemplating shutting down the lobster industry from Buzzards Bay to Long Island Sound for five years due to a drastic population drop brought on by temperature changes of just a few degrees in inshore waters.