SHINING UP THE SHEEN: Salon.com columnist/blogger Glenn Greenwald is someone that I both admire and despise. His fanatical devotion to ideals of transparency and the rule of law are inspiring, if his level of dedication is sometimes annoying. He’s the kind of guy whose politics are rooted firmly in his ideals—Greenwald is like some sort of rock that can’t be eroded, and the nation’s politics move around him like the sea. He spent much of the last decade beating up on the George W. Bush administration for abuses of constitutional power and transparency, and it appears that he will be spending the first part of this decade treating the Barack Obama administration with a similar level of contempt for committing the same trespasses.
My point is this: sometimes Greenwald pisses me off, but I listen anyway. And I listened Monday when he wrote about some apparent collusion between BP and federal, state and local governments to limit media access to oil spill clean-up efforts. I’m not one to indulge conspiracy theories or conspiracy theorists (though, on one occasion, I indulged both when the local handyman was telling me about how 9/11 was an inside job while repairing my air conditioning—but this is Alabama, and A/C is practically a breathing apparatus, so I’m sure you can forgive me), so I was glad to see that Greenwald’s bitching was based on reporting by Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland and comments by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Last Thursday on AC 360, Cooper reported on a new rule that he said “will prevent reporters and photographers and just about anyone else from getting anywhere near booms and oil-soaked wildlife, and just about any place we need to be.” The rule, which was instituted by the Unified Command, calls for everyone to stay at least 65 feet from “all Deepwater Horizon booming operations and oil response efforts taking place in Southeast Louisiana” or face up to a $40,000 civil penalty and the potential for a felony charge. The reasoning behind the new rule is safety.
“What this means is that oil-soaked birds on an island surrounded by boom—you can’t get close enough to take that picture,” Cooper said. “Shots of oil on beaches with booms? Stay 65 feet away.”
“If we can’t show what’s happening, warts and all,” Cooper said, “no one will see what’s happening.”
Cooper’s complaints were echoed by McClelland, who reported on several first-hand incidents in which law enforcement officers denied media access to public beaches, and another encounter involving a Terrebone Parish, Louisiana sheriff’s deputy who harassed a videographer from the American Birding Association. I’m running out of room, or I’d tell you more about it—but trust me in that the complete story is pretty scary.
Greenwald rounded up a shocking and considerable pool of reports regarding limited media access, threats and intimidation. “The very idea that government officials are acting as agents of BP (of all companies) in what clearly seem to be unconstitutional acts to intimidate and impede the media is infuriating,” Greenwald wrote. “We’ve frequently heard excuses that the Federal Government has little power to do anything to BP, but they certainly seem to have ample power to do a great deal for them” [emphasis in the original].
LET’S DO THE NUMBERS: It has now been 80 days since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank, and oil began gushing from the sea floor. The scientists in the Flow Rate Technical Group estimate that the well is spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day, or 1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons a day. At those rates, one might estimate that between 2.8 million barrels (117 million gallons) and 4.8 million barrels (201 million gallons) have escaped from the well. Another estimate puts the number of spilled barrels as high as 7.8 million barrels (328 million gallons).
As of Wednesday, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported collecting at least 1,387 birds, 444 sea turtles and 53 mammals that have died due to the spill. They have 940 birds, 104 turtles and two mammals that are oiled but alive, and 410 birds, three turtles and one sea mammal have been cleaned and released.
According to CNNMoney.com, BP has spent $3.12 billion in clean-up related costs. That includes 47,000 claims against the company that BP has paid (95,000 claims were submitted) totaling $147 million.
About 34 percent of the Gulf of Mexico is now closed for fishing.
About 484 miles of shoreline has been oiled, including 62 miles in Alabama. Oil has now been found on the shoreline of every state on the Gulf of Mexico, though oil found early this week in Texas was lightly weathered, leading some to believe that it may have hitched a ride on a contaminated boat rather than washing ashore through more natural means.