The Gulf is Still a Mess

When the Center for Biological Diversity sent a team to the Gulf recently, they found plenty of oil-covered wildlife.

Despite articles from Time magazine and others declaring that the dire environmental forecast for the Gulf following the massive BP oil spill was overblown, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has returned from the region to report that all is not well. A team sponsored by the group to tour the Gulf in late August found beaches covered in oil, or located directly on top of pools of oil. Even when surfaces looked clean, team members reached down with rubber gloves and found oil just six inches below the surface.

On August 4, 2010, Carol Browner, the Obama administration's environmental advisor, told NBC's "Today Show" that "the vast majority of the oil is gone. It was captured. It was burned. It was skimmed. It was contained. And mother nature did her part.” But scientists have since found fault with that assessment—arguing that when residual oil deposits are taken into account—including oil on the surface, tar balls and oil mixed with sand and sediment—as much as half of the 4.9 million barrels of spilled oil from the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil well explosion on April 20 may remain. Besides the oily beaches and shorelines, the CBD team found oil-covered birds and crabs and fish and turtles forced to swim through layers of oil.

"Rather than downplay the oil damage, as it first downplayed estimates of the spill rate, the Obama administration should mobilize more money and workers to get this mess cleaned up," said CBD Director Kieran Suckling.

The center has criticized the administration's relaxed handling of the spill and its after-effects, including failures to enact new regulations on offshore drilling, to extend a moratorium on offshore drilling or to prevent environmental waivers from speeding the drilling process. What's more, they report, the administration has not yet filed criminal charges against BP for violating the Clean Water Act.

CBD has taken legal action—filing seven lawsuits against BP and government regulators, including the largest Clean Water Act suit in history, which seeks $19 billion in fines from BP.

Sources: Center for Biological Diversity; Christian Science Monitor;Time Magazine