A tide of information on politics, environment, and ocean issues

News and information from Washington, DC

University of Hawaii takes the lead on researching issues surrounding the debris in the Pacific coming from the 3-11 Tsunami disaster in Japan

leave a comment »

A storify compilation of the live tweets from the meeting begins to tell the story of the range of issues that need to be considered when governments, academia and industries think about the debris at sea coming from the March 11, 2011 tsunami that rocked the coast of Japan.

View the story “U of Hawaii hosts meeting on marine debris from the 3-11-11 tsunami” on Storify]

You can also follow the ongoing story about the 3-11 tsunami debris threat at the newly launched
http://311tsunamidebris.org website

materials at sea immediately following the 3-11 tsunami disaster in Japan

materials at sea immediately following the 3-11 tsunami disaster in Japan

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy, government relations and strategic communications firm in Washington, DC.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/willnuckols/

 

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
X-NONE
X-NONE

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}

Follow Will on Twitter at @enviroxpert and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/willnuckols/

Written by Will Nuckols

February 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

If you are tracking FY2013 ocean and coastal related budget hearings, there’s a lot to cover

leave a comment »

image of U.S. Currency by William Nuckols

Do you know where the "ocean budget" dollars are located? Look widely, as many agencies impact the oceans and coasts of the U.S.
**more fy2013 hearings connected to agencies which have an impact on ocean policy issues will be added as they become available. Return to this page for updates

NOAA has dropped its FY2013 budget last week, when the President sent his full budget request  to the Hill for consideration by the House and Senate. This year’s NOAA budget request is approximately $5.1 billion. But that’s far from the only money in the oceans and coastal arena in the federal budget.

The National Ocean Council (NOC) structure includes dozens of agencies and the Executive Office of the President. Sensibly, it is not until you look across that broad collection of agency budget proposals and the reaction from the Hill to them will you get an understanding of the scale of the “ocean and coastal budget.”

Here are a few of the ocean related Congressional budget hearings that have occurred or are coming up over the next  months which provide the trail of breadcrumbs those interested in ocean and coastal issues will want to be following:

(Hearings which have already occurred will have links to archived video where available.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of the Interior – Secretary

Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:30 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Ken Salazar, Secretary, Department of the Interior (Biography)(Testimony); David Hayes, Deputy Secretary (Biography); Pamela Haze, Deputy Assistant Secretary – Budget, Finance, Performance and Acquisition (Biography)
Opening statements: Chairman Rogers / Chairman Simpson
Video recording: Part I / Part II

Friday, February 17, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of Agriculture – Secretary

Friday, February 17, 2012 10:00 AM in 2362-A Rayburn
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Honorable Thomas Vilsack, Secretary- Department of Agriculture; Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary-Department of Agriculture; Dr. Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist-Department of Agriculture; Michael Young, Budget Officer-Department of Agriculture

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

House Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy Joint Hearing
The title of the hearing is “The FY 2013 EPA Budget.”
10:00 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Opening Statement of Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield

Opening Statement of Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus

Opening Statement of Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton

Witness List
: Ms. Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, Witness Testimony
the hearing will be live broadcast on the Committee’s website.  It is also being carried on CSPAN.

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of Energy – Secretary

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 2:00 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary, Department of Energy

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Oversight Hearing on “FY 2013 budget requests from the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management”
10:00 AM   in 1324 Longworth House Office Building
Witness:
Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service
Robert Abbey, Director, Bureau of Land Management

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing (POSTPONED – new date TBD)
Budget Hearing – Department of Commerce, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:00 AM in H-309 Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator
(This hearing will not be webcast.)

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of State – Secretary of State

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:00 AM in 2359 Rayburn
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Witness: The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, Department of State

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Environmental Protection Agency – Administrator

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 1:00 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; Barbara Bennett, Chief Financial Officer, Environmental Protection Agency

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Office of Science and Technology Policy. Director

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 2:00 PM in H-309 Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
(This hearing will not be webcast).

Thursday March 1, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Fish and Wildlife Service – Director

Thursday, March 1, 2012 9:30 AM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Dan Ashe, Director, Fish and Wildlife Service; Chris Nolin, Budget Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tuesday March 6, 2012

House Appropriations Budget Hearing
U.S. Coast Guard – Commandant

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in B-318 Rayburn
Homeland Security

Witness:  Robert Papp, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

House Appropriations Budget Hearing – National Science Foundation
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in H-309, the Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness
: The Honorable Subra Suresh, Director, National Science Foundation
(This hearing will not be webcast by the Committee)

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – U.S. Geological Survey

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Dr. Marcia McNutt, Director, USGS

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Oversight Hearing on “Spending for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of Insular Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request for these Agencies.”
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in 1334 Longworth House Office Building
WITNESSES AND TESTIMONY:
Witnesses TBD.

Wednesday March 7, 2012

House Budget Committee, Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee
Budget Hearing – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Assistant Secretary, Chief of Engineers

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 2:00 PM in 2362-B Rayburn
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: The Honorable Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Maj. Gen. Merdith “Bo” Temple, Chief of Engineers (Acting), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
(This hearing will not be webcast)

Budget Hearing – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – Directors
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Tommy Beaudreau, Director, BOEM; Rear Admiral James Watson, Director, BSEE

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on “The Council on Environmental Quality’s FY 2013 Funding Request and the Effects on NEPA, National Ocean Policy and Other Federal Environmental Policy Initiatives”
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 1324 Longworth House Office Building
Witness: Nancy Sutley, Chairwoman, Council on Environmental Quality

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Oversight Hearing
Priorities, Plans, and Progress of the Nation’s Space Program
Mar 07 2012 10:00 AM
Russell Senate Office Building – 253
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following upcoming hearing on priorities, plans, and progress of the nation’s space program.
Please note the hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website.

House Appropriations Budget Hearing – Department of Agriculture
Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 2362-A Rayburn
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Mr. Harris Sherman, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Agriculture; Mr. Dave White,Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture; Mr. Michael Young, Budget Officer, Department of Agriculture.
(This hearing will not be webcast.)

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following upcoming hearing on the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal for the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The President’s FY2013 Budget Proposals for the Coast Guard and NOAA

Mar 07 2012 2:30 PM Russell Senate Office Building – 253
Witness List:
The Honorable Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Admiral Robert J. Papp, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard

House Appropriations Budget Hearing
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 2358-A Rayburn
Homeland Security

Witnesses:
Craig Fugate, Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency
(This hearing will not be webcast)

Thursday March 8, 2012

House Budget Hearing – National Park Service – Director
Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:30 AM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service

House Natural Resources Committee Hearing – FY13 Budget for DOI’s BOEM and BSSE
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
March 8, 2012 9:30 AM

1334 Longworth House Office Building
Oversight Hearing on “Effect of the President’s FY 2013 Budget and Legislative Proposals for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) on Private Sector Job Creation, Domestic Energy Production, Safety and Deficit Reduction
Witnesses:
Tommy Beaudreau, Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
James Watson, Director, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

House Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing
Department of Transportation – Secretary

Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:30 AM in 2358-A Rayburn
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary, Department of Transportation
House Appropriations Committee
Budget Hearing – National Park Service 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee

Witness: Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service(Biography); Bruce Sheaffer, Comptroller, National Park Service(Biography); Peggy O’Dell, Deputy Director, National Park Service(Biography)
(This hearing will not be webcast)
Senate Appropriations Committee
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (Chairman Mikulski)
March 28, 2012
Time and Location: 2:00 p.m., Dirksen 124
Agenda: a review of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Witnesses: The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Senate Appropriations Committee
Energy and Water Development Subcommittee (Chairman Feinstein)
March 28, 2012
Time and Location: 2:30 p.m., Dirksen 192
Agenda: A review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 funding request and budget justification for the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.
Witnesses:
Major General Merdith (Bo) Temple
Acting Commanding General
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary
U.S. Army (Civil Works)
The Honorable Anne Castle
Assistant Secretary for Water and Science
U.S. Department of the Interior
The Honorable Michael L. Connor
Commissioner
Bureau of Reclamation
SAA
12.00

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
X-NONE
X-NONE

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Senate Appropriations Committee
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (Chairman Kohl)
March 29, 2012
Time and Location: 2:00 p.m., Dirksen 192
Agenda: Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the Department of Agriculture
Witness: The Honorable Thomas Vilsack, Secretary, Department of Agriculture(USDA)
Accompanied by:
Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Dr. Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist, Department of Agriculture, Mr. Michael Young, Budget Officer, Department of Agriculture

**more fy2013 hearings connected to agencies which have an impact on ocean policy issues will be added as they become available.  Return to this page for updates.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

SAA
12.00

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
X-NONE
X-NONE

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Dirksen 124

13,0000 gallons spilled by Shell on Sunday. In the Gulf of Mexico, spills remain an all too common occurence.

leave a comment »

Transocean Deepwater Nautilus Drilling Platform

"Equipment failure" at the Transocean Deepwater Nautilus Drilling Platform, operating for Shell Oil in the Gulf of Mexico 20 miles from the site of the Transocean/BP Macondo well blowout, spilled over 13,000 gallons of oil and drilling fluid into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday December 18, 2011

On Sunday December 18, 2011 there has been a reported release of 13,000 gallons of oil and drilling fluids into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, some mere 20 miles from the site of the BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Once again the drill rig is a Transocean Deepwater series rig, similar to the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform that was lost following loss of control of the wellhead.

While the driller, Transocean, is the same, the company they work for is different. In this case it isn’t BP, but rather Shell Oil, a company who extolled its safety programs and harshly criticized BP’s plans in the waves of criticism and finger pointing following the disaster at the Macondo well which spilled millions of gallons of oil and resulted in the loss of human lives.

Shell, which has been promoting its ability to operate safely, is the same company who is getting incrementally closer to achieving all the required permits for it to drill in the Arctic under conditions that some are too hazardous for any company to risk, given the sensitivity of the arctic environment and the questionable ability to address accidents including oil spills which could result from the drilling activity.

The fact that spill free drilling operations are not, in any real world conditions, possible continues to prove itself.

12/20/11 UPDATE: Shell reports that the fluid loss was synthetic drilling fluids, which they say are biodegradable. The fact that accidents, even in areas near the BP Macondo well spill which have heightened scrutiny, continue to occur, and the releases of materials are not gallons but tens of thousands of gallons, remains alarming.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

 

 


Media begins coverage of the 3-11 tsunami debris en route to the U.S.

leave a comment »

The public’s attention is finally being drawn to the topic of the materials which ended in the ocean as a result of the tsunami.

photo of the russian ship Pallada

Photo of the Pallada docked during a visit to Seattle, WA. The Pallada's sailing leg from Hawaii to Russia was crucial in the initial documentation of the 3-11 tsunami debris field in the Pacific ocean disaster which hit Japan earlier this year - referred to by some as 3-11 tsunami debris. Which some minor coverage occurred in the month following the disaster it didn't grab attention in the same way that the current round of media coverage is generating. Major kudos to University of Hawaii researcher Nikolai A Maximenko who approached the Pallada for assistance and the Russian Captain who agreed to document the 3-11 tsunami debris as she sailed west from Hawaii.

The current cycle of coverage reached possibly its widest coverage through a single story in a piece that aired on October 24, 2011 on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams. That story covered the

information that was gathered by one of what we believe to be only two sources of direct observation of the 3-11 tsunami debris field.

Frustrated by a lack of a wider response to the potential threats that the 3-11 tsunami debris materials may generate, a handful of marine debris experts in Hawaii and Washington, DC (a group which includes myself) have come together to bring together resources of opportunity to begin the process of scoping out the scale of the problem.

One such opportunity presented itself when a Russian tall ship, the Pallada, was en route from San Francisco, California on her way home to Russia, and stopped over in Hawaii. While docked in HI, University of Hawaii researcher Nikolai A Maximenko, who thankfully peaks Russian, approached the Captain of the Pallada and asked if his crew could take photos and report back on the debris they might encounter as they sail west through the areas the ocean circulation models say should contain debris from the 3-11 tsunami debris.

Having found not just debris in general, but a small boat with registration on the stern tying it back to the site of the tsunami’s landfall in Japan there is little doubt that the debris was from the 3-11 disaster event. Closer to Hawaii than the University of Hawaii or NOAA models had predicted, the information from the vessel of opportunity should alert governments, industry, environmentalists and scientists that shockingly little is known about the 3-11 debris field.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

Written by Will Nuckols

November 1, 2011 at 9:07 am

Administration struggles to clarify intent and advantages of an ocean planning system to House of Representatives Republicans

leave a comment »

Over the course of two hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources the Republican majority on the committee posed a lengthy series of questions which demonstrate their resistance to planning for ocean uses, but more so it showed that the concept of ocean planning, coined as “Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning,” or CMSP, in this Administration, remains poorly understood.

See the archive of the live tweets from the hearing on Storify at http://storify.com/enviroxpert

stor·i·fy|stôrəfī|

verb [trans.]

  1. To form or tell stories of;
    to narrate or describe in a story
    .
  2. To make stories using social media.
screengrab of Will Nuckols enviroxpert Storify page

Link to the Storify archived live Tweets from the House Natural Resources Hearing

(From the House Natural Resources Committee)

“BACKGROUND:

This hearing is the second hearing to focus on the National Ocean Policy and the Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning initiative. The hearing will feature testimony from Administration officials and impacted industries on President Obama’s Executive Order 13547, which established a new National Ocean Policy and Council that could severely restrict the recreational and commercial uses of our oceans and create uncertainty for inland activities.”

Other Hearings in the Series:

  • House Natural Resources Committee Hearing – Full Committee Oversight Hearing on “The President’s New National Ocean Policy – A Plan for Further Restrictions on Ocean, Coastal and Inland Activities” held on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in the Longworth House Office Building.
image of House Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings

House Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings

image of House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rep. MarkeyH

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rep. Markey

WITNESSES AND TESTIMONY:

Panel I

Nancy Sutley
Chair, U.S. Council on Environmental Quality
Co-Chair, National Ocean Council

Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Under Secretary of Commerce, Oceans and Atmosphere
Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Panel II

Jim Donofrio
Executive Director  Recreational Fishing Alliance
Randall Luthi
President
National Ocean Industries Association

Michael Conathan
Director of Ocean Policy
Center for American Progress

screenshot of video of Nancy Sutley, Chair White House Council on Environmental Quality testifying before the Natural Reources Committee

Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality, testifying before the Natural Resources Committee. Click on the image to link to the full hearing video recording

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

Administration blocks Oil Spill Report lead investigators from testifying before Congress

leave a comment »

House Resources Chairman Doc Hastings request for a “Prompt Hearing on BOEMRE/Coast Guard Spill Report” is foiled by Administration delays. 

In an odd game of who gets to talk to whom, the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee’s attempts to have, in the words of the Committee’s press release a “Prompt Hearing on BOEMRE/Coast Guard Spill Report” on the oil spill at the Macondo well and the loss of the Transocean drill platform which resulted in the spill of millions of gallons of oil and the loss of 11 lives, has been foiled – or at least delayed a bit.

photo of the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon

The loss of Transocean's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and the wellhead blowout spilled millions of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico and took the lives of 11 workers on the platform. A joint U.S. Coast Guard and DOI report has been released detailing the government's findings on the causes of the disaster. Now Congress has expressed interest in quickly speaking with the lead investigators in a hearing in the House, but disagreements between the Committee and the Administration over who can speak about the report is resulting in delays in the hearing schedule. Originally scheduled for this morning, the hearing has been moved to October 6, 2011.

On September 14th the Natural Resource Committee released a statement that “On Friday, September 23rd, the Natural Resources Committee will hold a Full Committee oversight hearing on the final report of the BOEMRE/U.S. Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team.”

It then went on to add that:

“After repeated delays, the federal government is finally releasing the findings of its investigation into the tragic Deepwater Horizon incident,” Chairman Hastings said. “This is another significant report on the disaster and I’m hopeful it will give us a clearer picture about what happened so Congress, industry and the Administration can move forward responsibly and appropriately. We have waited far too long for this report, but the Committee is ready to take action and a hearing is now officially scheduled for next week. I’m confident that with a far more complete reporting of the facts, we will be able to take a thoughtful approach to real reforms to ensure continued safe American energy production.”

However, in order to get down to a back and forth dialogue about the facts and findings in the report there needs to be witnesses to testify to the facts and answer questions from members of both parties.  That part isn’t going very well at the moment.

In a press release on September 23rd House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Doc Hastings announced that “tomorrow’s Full Committee oversight hearing on the final report of the BOEMRE/U.S. Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team (JIT) will be postponed until October 6, 2011 due to the Obama Administration’s last-minute refusal to allow investigation team members to testify.”

“It took far too long for the final report to be issued and the Obama Administration is now further delaying proper oversight by suddenly refusing to allow members of the investigation team to testify. Based on numerous conversations between Committee staff and the Administration, it was confirmed that investigators from the BOEM and Coast Guard team would be testifying at Friday’s hearing. We were informed today, one day prior to the hearing, that this had changed. It’s unacceptable for the Committee not to be able to hear from the actual investigators who conducted the investigation and wrote the report.

“It’s always been my intention to first hear from the investigators about their findings, in order to get all the facts, and then hear from the specific companies that are cited in the report. The companies have been notified of this fact. The Administration’s actions are complicating and compromising the Committee’s ability to move forward on this matter.

One presumed rationale for asking the report’s lead investigators and authors to directly testify, rather that having senior Administration officials from DOI and the USCG testify – a common practice in DC where leadership typically responds to Congressional inquiries, not the career rank an file – if because Chairman Hastings is believed to be interested in asking not only substantive questions about the report itself, but to also ask questions about the reasons for the multiple delays in the production of the report. While that question has not yet been posed to any investigators from the joint report, some on the Hill are assuming that the delays are the result of DC agency leadership fighting with the report’s authors about language which would appear in the final report. At this stage there seems to be little evidence of a heavy hand by the agency leaderships or by the White House, but proving or dispelling that theory is being made difficult by the Administration’s refusal to allow the investigation team members to testify.

The current employment status of one of the lead investigators is surely a concern for the Administration – the Department Interior’s lead investigator, David Dykes, a former Minerals Management Service employee who worked for over a decade for MMS, has left government employment and now holds a new job.

On September 14th Time Magazine Senior Reporter Brian Walsh Tweeted “BOEMRE’s lead investigator on BP spill, J. David Dykes, left the agency earlier this month. New job: Chevron”

While this is obviously awkward for the Administration, it is unclear why efforts would be made to block the U.S. Coast Guard’s lead investigator as his failure to appear before the Natural Resources Committee only invites theories about the Administration’s motives, and gives fuel to the fire of those positioning to paint the report as something other than an accurate description of the investigators’ findings.

The Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Team Final Report can be found through the following links:

Chapters of the final JIT Investigative Report:

The Natural Resources Committee hearing, now scheduled for October 6, 2011, will occur in room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building.  For those not in Washington DC and unable to attend in person the Committee will stream the video live on the internet.  Check out http://naturalresources.house.gov/ URL for the link to the live webcast on October 6, 2011.

photo of the The blowout preventer of the Deepwater Horizon on a barge

The blowout preventer of the Deepwater Horizon is transported on the Mississippi River into New Orleans, Sept. 11, 2010. The blowout preventer was DOI BOEM/US Coast Guard investigation determine the circumstances surrounding the explosion, fire, pollution, and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon platform. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

 

 

Non-partisan and Optimistic: Oceans bring out the best in Congress

leave a comment »

On Tuesday September 13, 2011, a non-partisan and optimistic group of senators came together to kick off the establishment of the Senate Oceans Caucus in the United States Senate. With remarks centered around bragging about who has more coastline or whose state borders not just one but two oceans, the mood was refreshingly friendly and full of optimism. With remarks about the common ground (water?) that brings them together these group of Senators seemed, well, positively senatorial. Acting with a sense of leadership and a commitment to protect those things that Americans hold dear, tonight there not only was an absence of the partisan bickering that has caused the Capitol to come to a virtual screeching halt but there was also actual friendly optimism indicating that we can work together in D.C.

Kicked off by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and followed up by co-chair Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) the remarks by all tonight centered around what we can do together rather than what we can do to do to undermine each other.

And if bi-partisan wasn’t enough, Representative Sam Farr, chair of the House Coastal Caucus, stopped by expressing his enthusiasm for the formation of an ocean-minder coalition in the Senate making oceans a bicameral effort.

As Senator Whitehouse remarked “this is day one.” The real test of the effectiveness of the caucus begins now.

The remarks of Senators Whitehouse and Murkowski from the Senate Oceans Caucus reception are available as MP3 files for download below.

microphone   http://whnuckolsconsulting.com/audio/whitehouse.MP3

  http://whnuckolsconsulting.com/audio/murkowski.MP3

photo of Senators kicking off the Senate Oceans Caucus

Senators Whitehouse and Murkowski will co-chair the bi-partisan Senate Oceans Caucus that was formed on September 13, 2011.

The members of the Caucus are: Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Scott Brown (R-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Also in attendance were a number of Obama Administration officials including Dr. John Holdren from OSTP, Nancy Sutley from CEQ and Jane Lubchenco from NOAA.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com
You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

Sadly “the secret to pollution is dilution” is still a valid cleanup method for oil spills caused by Shell

leave a comment »

Oil extraction isn’t a flawless technology, and there continue to be too many reminders of this fact. Not always as dramatic as the loss of the Transocean Horizon Oil Platform and subsequent major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which BP continues to pay billions to clean up, there are other engineering systems which fail and cause a release of petroleum into the ocean.

Shell Oil's Gannet Alpha Platform in the North Sea, co-owned by Exxon, has been leaking oil for days

Shell Oil's Gannet Platform in the North Sea, co-owned by Exxon, has been leaking oil for days. The solution proposed by Shell to mitigate the spill is to sit back and let "wave action" do the cleanup for them. The leading-edge cleanup technique of letting nature fix it for Shell comes at the same time Shell presses forward to drill in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic - an area that the U.S. Coast Guard believes would be extremely difficult to access much less clean up in the case of a spill.

On Friday 8/12/2011 Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced that an oil spill has occurred at its Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea. Shell’s Gannet Alpha platform is about 112 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland, and has resulted in a sheen of oil on the water’s surface about 20 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. While the volume of the release wasn’t immediately available, Shell now, based on the size of the sheen seen on the surface, that the spill is around 120 barrels of oil.

This is yet another incident in a series of problems with Shell’s offshore facilities in the U.K. The Daily Telegraph Newspaper reported that the leak at the Gannet Alpha platform is but one in a series of spills: “All four platforms serving Shell’s Brent field have been shut for maintenance after a piece of the Bravo platform fell into the sea in January. Shell said yesterday it had re-opened its Brent Alpha and Bravo platforms after a seven-month closure. It is expected Brent Delta will resume in the near future and Brent Charlie, which has experienced gas leaks, to restart next year.” Gannet field is co-owned by Exxon and Shell, with Shell serving as the platform operator.

The frequency of releases into the ocean by oil and gas exploration and production is alarming in and of itself, but possibly more disturbing is the mitigation to address such spills. While Shell reported to have cleanup and dispersant capabilities on scene, “Our current expectation for the North Sea oil leak is that it will be naturally dispersed through wave action.”

While we do have examples where just leaving the oil alone is the best solution available (think of the harm caused by well meaning cleanup crews to steam-cleaned the shoreline in Alaska following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which effectively sterilized the shoreline killing everything, not just the organisms fated to die from the oil alone) it is still disturbing to  think that “wave action” is a preferred cleanup technology given that Shell, which often touts a stellar environmental record and superior engineering capabilities, is in the process of securing permits to drill in the icy waters of Alaska – an area where there is considerable consensus by experts that there is no reliable technology that will allow cleanups in the icy conditions that comprise a large amount of the year.

Since no engineering solution for exploring and producing oil and gas at sea is foolproof, with an ongoing series of leaks from platforms, pipelines and other components of the oil and gas exploration, production and transportation system, one wonders why we allow any company, including Shell which touts its engineering expertise and conservative engineering practices but who still experiences oil spills at sea, to drill in the Arctic.  Are we are simply accepting that we are likely writing off the biology of that area at some point down the road when the prevention measures fail and the cleanup technology fails as well?

When oil spill mitigation still includes “the secret to pollution is dilution” one must wonder what the Obama Administration is thinking as it gets incrementally closer to granting Shell the permits it needs to drill in the Arctic when drilling in non-icy waters already has proven to be difficult and fraught with complications.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

54.5 MPG saves trillions of $ and addresses ocean carbon problem

leave a comment »

We’ve heard many times that the oceans are imperiled by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere from fossil fuel consumption, and how that CO2 is acidifying the waters of the world, making things like growing oysters increasingly difficult, but what those in the ocean community have been lacking is a solution – perhaps because we too often look to coastal and ocean areas for solutions to what are actually global problems.

Obama Administration Report: Driving Efficiency: Cutting Costs for Families at the Pump and Slashing Dependence on Oil

Obama Administration Report released July 29, 2011: Driving Efficiency: Cutting Costs for Families at the Pump and Slashing Dependence on Oil

To a seemingly increasing number of ocean problems (CO2, marine debris, excessive nutrient inputs) the problems, and many of the solutions, stem from land.  Today President Obama announced a solution to one of the causes of ocean stress – automobiles and their associated fuel consumption.

FUEL ECONOMY

While the price of gas lately has been driving consumer choices in automobiles has shown an increased interest in more efficient vehicles, including hybrids, vehicle designs have not been moving fast enough based on consumer demand alone to cause a reaction by the auto manufactures to dramatically increase fuel efficiency on their own. Sometimes government needs to provide a nudge to get things moving quicker.  When is government interference justified? When the market isn’t providing signals that moves industry in a direction that is aligned with the national interest of the country, and SAFE standards have proven in the past that government has play an important, healthy role in providing a predictable playing field for the auto industry.

In a clear sign that the auto industry was on board with Administration plans to increase fuel economy, The President was joined by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo  when President Obama today announced a historic agreement with thirteen major automakers to pursue the next phase in the Administration’s national vehicle program.

Fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025 – that’s nearly a doubling of the current fuel economy.

oysters on the half shell

If you love oysters - either to eat them or for their value in the ecosystem - today's fuel economy anouncement is good news for you

The connection to Oceans?  These programs will dramatically cut the oil we consume, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day.  And where there’s oil savings there is savings in carbon too – and according to the Administration report’s figures they will be cutting more than 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the life of the program – more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States last year.

If the EPA and NHTSA plans generate the savings they are projecting, American drivers will save $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and lessen the CO2 emissions that threaten ocean life down to the most basic part of the food chain.

So consider today a good say for the American pocket book and a good day for plankton, shellfish and the people who appreciate those creature, seafood, and oceans in general.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

July 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm

At some “Hands Across the Sand” protests today there was no sand

leave a comment »

Today around the world at noon local time groups are coming together to join hands in a statement of solidarity against further offshore oil development and for green energy as an alternative.

Scores of people line up in front of the White House to protest offshore oil and advocate for green energy

On June 25, 2011 scores of people line up in front of the White House to protest offshore oil and advocate for green energy

At at least one of the “Hands Across the Sand” events there were scores of protesters but the beach was more than an hour away. In front of the White House, organized by a local chapter of Surfrider and the Oceana ‘s  DC office, scores of people came out on a sunny Saturday to hold hands with like-minded people to send a message that the status quo where the major emphasis offshore has been drilling our way to energy independence. Stretching out for more than a city block people joined hands in front of the White House gates and shouted protest chants.

When people chanted “clean energy now” apparently, from the mock windmills many people were holding, green energy means offshore wind – an option that while theoretically aided by Secretary Ken Salazar’s Smart from the Start initiative, is still slow in coming online in the U.S.

A Widening Base of Support

As the history from the event’s website states “The Movement Started In Florida. In Florida on Saturday, February 13, 2010, a statewide gathering against near and offshore oil drilling occurred.  10,000 Floridians representing 60 towns and cities and over 90 beaches joined hands to protest the efforts by the Florida Legislature and the US Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in the near and off shores of Florida.”

One thing that is clear from today’s Hands Across the Sand events is that support for protecting our oceans by limiting offshore fossil fuel extraction and promoting alternatives – sometimes called blue-green energy – have wide geographic support.  In states such as Florida and California this wouldn’t be much of a surprise, but when you look at Hands Across the Sand’s lineup of events occurring today you see places where people are linking up at locations like the great coastal states of Colorado, Wyoming and Missouri.  Not your typical places for protests about issues that are too often seen as important to only those who live on the shoreline. But the reality that many people enjoy having healthy coasts, whether through vacations to coastal destinations or simply back home through the pleasure of consuming healthy seafood, and that those same people are not pleased with ongoing plans to develop the offshore US with additional oil and gas extraction.

But don’t focus too much on this being solely an issue in the U.S.  Take South Africa for example, where earlier today they has their Hand Across the Sand in brisk 15 deg. C  weather. You can see the global reach of this expanding grassroots phenomenon at the Hands Across the Sand international site.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

June 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm