BP Oil Spill

Marc Morrison

Texas will receive more than $750 million of the $20 billion BP oil spill settlement announced this week. The state will use some of that money to prepare for future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico.

Five years ago, oil was still pouring into the Gulf after an offshore rig exploded, killing 11 people and causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Florida State University oceanographer Ian McDonald, like a lot of researchers, felt frustrated at the time that civilian experts weren’t being included in the government’s emergency response.

“There’s a terrific brain trust of academics and professionals in the Gulf Coast region, and there are none of them that are not prepared at any time to go and try to fight this thing,” McDonald said.


From Texas Standard

As we look back on the last five years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, some big questions linger: What will the next disaster be, and can we prepare for it?


From Texas Standard:

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. Two days later, it crashed into the ocean. By mid-May, an underwater camera showed the broken pipe constantly gushing black liquid into the Gulf of Mexico.

As the oil spread, so did the panic. Crews tried several different methods to keep it from spreading across the Gulf and into sensitive ecosystems. Engineers tried everything from a containment dome to a “top kill” – sealing the pipe with cement. Nothing worked.

Photo Illustration: Todd Wiseman & Kris Krug

From The Texas Tribune

After watching a $5 million grant to Gov.Rick Perry’s office go unspent nearly four years after it was presented in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is asking Texas for its money back.

The funds were given to Texas in September 2010 to help with oil spill recovery, but few of the state and local officials who work on such projects were aware of the grant until a legislative hearing in May. Lawmakers at the hearing were angered and said the money should have been given to agencies with the expertise to spend it. BP was frustrated as early as last winter about the unspent funds and asked Perry to return the money, according to correspondence obtained by The Texas Tribune through an open records request.

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig where 11 men died in April 2010, has agreed to pay $1.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties to resolve Justice Department allegations over its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Citing a "lack of business integrity," the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was temporarily suspending the oil giant BP from entering into new contracts with the federal government.

In a press release, the EPA said BP demonstrated the lack of integrity during the Deepwater Horizon "blowout, explosion, oil spill and response." This kind of suspension, the EPA explained, is "standard practice when a responsibility question is raised by action in a criminal case."

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: Oil giant BP has agreed to plead guilty to criminal misconduct related to the 2010 Gulf Oil spill and will pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties, the company just confirmed. And it will pay $525 million in civil penalties in a resolution with the Securities and Exchanges Commission. BP will make the payments over six years.


Local West Nile Virus Case Confirmed

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirms there have been 32 cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease in Texas so far this year. One case has been confirmed in Travis County.  The individual has been hospitalized.

The neuroinvasive form of the disease can affect a person’s brain or spinal cord, and can be fatal. The first deadly case of the disease was confirmed in Texas earlier this month, but there are reports of as many as three deaths in the state. West Nile virus, carried by mosquitoes, causes the disease.

West Nile fever, also caused by the virus, is generally considered less serious because it does not invade the nervous system. The CDC reports that roughly half the cases that states have reported so far this year are of the the more serious form of the disease.

"The first criminal charges in connection with the BP oil spill have been filed against a former BP engineer named Kurt Mix," NPR's Carrie Johnson reports exclusively.

Carrie just told our Newscast unit that Mix has been charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting text messages after the spill. The texts were related to the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf. Mix will make his first appearence in court today.

"U.S. prosecutors are preparing what would be the first criminal charges against BP PLC employees stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history," The Wall Street Journal reports this morning, citing "people familiar with the matter."

Now that BP is resuming oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, the energy giant is looking to revive its image among those who remember the tragic Deepwater Horizon leak that spilled almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in 2010.

BP won eleven tracts in the latest lease sale in the Gulf, which was the first since the well blowout that caused eleven deaths, Forbes.com reports.

Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

A federal judge has dealt oil giant BP a pair of setbacks in its efforts to shield itself from billions of dollars in damage claims related to last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, a judge ruled that BP is not covered under insurance policies worth $750 million held by the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, Transocean Ltd.

BP has agreed to pay $50 million in civil penalties to the state for an explosion six years ago at its refinery in Texas City. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged BP with violating state air quality laws during and after the explosion. The blast in 2005 killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others.

The settlement says BP does not admit any wrongdoing “because of the uncertainty and costs of litigation.” It also prevents the state from being able to sue BP over the claims in the future.

Image courtesy of Wilco.org

Williamson County Approves Budget, Holds Taxes Steady

Williamson County Commissioners approved the county's 2011-2012 budget yesterday. The nearly $127 million budget keeps property taxes about the same for the average homeowner even though home values are up. That's because commissioners lowered the tax rate a bit. 

Photo by CaliforniaDFG at http://www.flickr.com/photos/californiadfg/4899552970/sizes/o/in/photostream/

The Associated Press is reporting the investigation into an oil sheen that was spotted off the Gulf of Mexico last week. Various oil companies, including BP, are trying to figure out where the sheen came from.

An oil sheen (not the same as a spill) happens when a thin layer of oil settles on top of the water shimmering in different colors and can come from leaks or spills.

Photo by EPI2oh http://www.flickr.com/photos/epi2oh/

To feed its energy demands, the United States is looking for energy in increasingly far-flung environments such as: Ultra-deep offshore oil wells, the Arctic, shale rock formations 20,000 feet underground. The risks involved are often greater, but the industry lacks a set of “best practices” for these new frontiers of energy exploration.

That's a need that researchers at the University of Texas and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hope to fill. Scientists at both colleges are teaming up to create some guidelines for industry. Their focus would range from guiding principles to government policies to the engineering needs required to reduce environmental impact.

Image courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Deepwater Horizon explosion
Image courtesy SkyTruth http://www.flickr.com/photos/skytruth/

In one of the most detailed accounts of the explosion on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig earlier this year, New York Times reporters David Barstow, David Rohde, Stephanie Saul and Ian Urbina tell the story of a disaster that killed 11 men and led to one of the largest environmental catastrophes in United States history.