Category Archives: Big Oil

Judge tosses Gulf spill claims against toxic dispersant maker

corexit

sfgate.com | Dec 5, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge presiding over litigation spawned by the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill has dismissed all claims against the manufacturer of a chemical dispersant that was used to break up crude gushing from BP’s blown-out well.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled last week that federal laws shield Illinois-based Nalco Co. from liability over the government’s use of Corexit after the 2010 spill.

Nalco didn’t decide whether, when, where, how or in what quantities Corexit would be used in response to the spill, Barbier noted. And the judge said it wouldn’t be proper for him to second guess the federal on-scene coordinator’s decision to use the dispersant.

Lawyers for cleanup workers and coastal residents exposed to the dispersant had argued Nalco isn’t immune from claims it supplied a defective product that wasn’t safe for use in the Gulf.

But the judge said the claims would create an “obstacle to federal law” if he allowed them to proceed.

More than 1.8 million gallons of dispersant were used in responding to the spill. It was last used four days after BP capped the well in June 2010.

A 2010 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that Corexit, when mixed with oil, is no more toxic to aquatic life than oil alone. But congressional investigators have claimed the U.S. Coast Guard defied a federal directive to use the chemical sparingly and routinely approved BP requests to use thousands of gallons of Corexit per day.

Nalco’s Corexit Dispersant Makes Oil 52 Times More Toxic

corexit spraying

LiveScience | Nov 30, 2012

by Douglas Main

For microscopic animals living in the Gulf, even worse than the toxic oil released during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster may be the very oil dispersants used to clean it up, a new study finds.

More than 2 million gallons (7.5 million liters) of oil dispersants called Corexit 9527A and 9500A were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to prevent oil from reaching shore and to help it degrade more quickly.

However, when oil and Corexit are combined, the mixture becomes up to 52 times more toxic than oil alone, according to a study published online this week in the journal Environmental Pollution.

“There is a synergistic interaction between crude oil and the dispersant that makes it more toxic,” said Terry Snell, a study co-author and biologist at Georgia Tech. Using dispersants breaks up the oil into small droplets and makes it less visible, but,  “on the other hand, makes it more toxic to the planktonic food chain,” Snell told LiveScience.

Toxic mixture

That mixture of dispersant and oil in the Gulf would’ve wreaked havoc on rotifers, which form the base of the marine food web, and their eggs in seafloor sediments, Snell said.

In the study, Snell and colleagues tested ratios of oil and dispersant found in the Gulf in 2010, using actual oil from the well that leaked in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the dispersant. The mixture was similarly toxic at the various ratios tested, the study found. His group exposed several varieties of rotifers to concentrations of the oil-dispersant mixture likely seen over a large area of the Gulf.

“The levels in the Gulf were toxic, and seriously toxic,” Snell said. “That probably put a big dent in the planktonic food web for some extended period of time, but nobody really made the measurements to figure out the impact.”

The dispersant makes the oil more deadly by decreasing the size of the droplets, making it more “bio-available” to small organisms, said Ian MacDonald, a researcher at Florida State University. “The effect is specifically a toxic synergy — the sum is worse than the parts,” said MacDonald, who was not involved in the research.

A cautionary tale

This is one of the first studies to look at the impact of the oil-dispersant mixture on plankton. A decline in populations of plankton could impact larger animals all the way up to whales, he said. In general, plankton can rebound quickly, although the toxicity to larvae in sediments is concerning, since it reduces the size of the next generation. This ocean-bottom oil slurry could have also impacted other species that spend part of their life cycles here like algae and crustaceans.

“This is an important study that adds badly needed data to help us better understand the effects of oil spills and oil spill remediation strategies, such as the use of dispersants,” said Stephen Klaine, an environmental toxicologist at Clemson University who wasn’t involved in the research. “Species’ differences in the sensitivity to any toxic compounds, including the ones in this discussion, can be huge.”

The results contrast with those released by the Environmental Protection Agency in August 2010. That study found that a mixture of oil and Corexit isn’t more toxic than oil alone to both a species of shrimp and species of fish. However, several studies have found the mixture is more toxic than oil to the embryos of several fish species. The EPA could not immediately be reached for comment.

“To date, EPA has done nothing but congratulate itself on how Corexit was used and avow they would do it the same way again,” MacDonald said.

However, Snell said the dispersant should not be used. It would be better to let the oil disperse on its own to minimize ecological damage, he said.

“This is a cautionary tale that we need to do the science before the emergency happens so we can make decisions that are fully informed,” Snell said. “In this case, the Corexit is simply there to make the oil disperse and go out of sight. But out of sight doesn’t mean it’s safe in regard to the food web.”

“It’s hard to sit by and not do something,” Snell said.”But in this case, doing something actually made it more toxic.”

Toxic Corexit Producer Nalco Dismissed From Lawsuits Over 2010 BP Spill

corexit

Nalco said the claims for exposure-related injuries were preempted by federal law

bloomberg.com | Nov 28, 2012

By Margaret Cronin Fisk

Ecolab Inc. (ECL)’s Nalco Holding Co. unit, which provided a chemical dispersant used to deal with the 2010 BP Plc (BP/) Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has been dismissed from lawsuits over the incident.

BP used the Nalco dispersant to break up oil and reduce the harm to the Gulf Coast following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010. Plaintiffs sued Nalco, claiming the dispersant, called Corexit, was defective and more toxic than the oil itself.

Nalco said the claims for exposure-related injuries were preempted by federal law giving the government authority to direct all actions to remove a substantial spill. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans agreed, finding today that the claims were preempted by the U.S. Clean Water Act and the National Contingency Plan, which put the government in charge of the response.

“Nalco did not decide whether, when, where, how or in what quantities Corexit was applied in response to the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo Well oil spill,” Barbier said in a 36-page opinion today.

Barbier also said allowing such claims might harm an all- out response to future spills.

“If the court were to permit” the claims against Corexit, even if the product was found to be defective or dangerous, “then during the next substantial spill or ‘spill of national significance,’ the threat of liability might cause the manufacturer of dispersant X to refuse to provide its product,” Barbier said.
‘We’re Ecstatic’

Barbier said he wasn’t considering whether Corexit was toxic or defective, just that the claims against Nalco had to be dismissed as a matter of law.

“We’re ecstatic,” Michael J. Monahan, spokesman for St. Paul, Minnesota-based Ecolab, said today. “Its a vindication of the position we’ve had all along,” he said in a phone interview.

Steve Herman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail for comment on the dismissal.

The lawsuit is part of In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

BP agrees to pay largest criminal fine in US history in $4.5bn Gulf oil spill deal


BP’s deal with the US government and the SEC limits the company’s exposure to further criminal charges and penalties. Photograph: KPA/Zuma/Rex Features

Oil giant will pay $4.5bn to US authorities and agrees to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct over fatal rig explosion

guardian.co.uk | Nov 15, 2012

by Suzanne Goldenberg and Dominic Rushe

BP has agreed to pay the largest criminal fine in US history – $4.5bn – to resolve all criminal charges arising from the fatal oil rig explosion and catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company said on Thursday that it had agreed to pay $4bn to the US government over five years, and $525m to the Securities and Exchange Commission. That money will be paid over three years.

The criminal settlement does not settle all of the claims against BP for the April 2010 blowout of the Deepwater Horizon, and the subsequent oil spill.

The oil giant is not yet off the hook for environmental damage to the Gulf of Mexico, and could face billions in restoration costs to waters, coastline and marine life.

But Thursday’s deal does limit BP’s exposure to further criminal charges and penalties, and frees the company to focus on resolving those other civil claims.

The fine is the largest criminal penalty in US history, easily outstripping the previous record of $1.2bn levied by the Justice Department against drug giant Pfizer over fraudulent marketing practices.

In addition to the fines, the oil company agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of ships’ officers, arising from the deaths aboard the Deepwater Horizon when the rig exploded and sank.

It also agreed to single misdemeanour counts under the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Act and one felony count of obstruction of Congress.

The settlement remains subject to US federal court approval.

“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region,” BP’s chief executive, Bob Dudley, said in a statement.

“We apologise for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the US government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”

The company’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, said BP believed the settlement was in the company’s best interests.

“We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders,” he said in the statement. “It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims.”

In London the company’s shares, which had stopped trading before the news of the fine broke, closed down a fraction of a penny at 425.4p. So far, the company has set aside $38.1bn to settle claims and fines related to the disaster.

The Justice Department is expected to issue a statement on the settlement later on Thursday. It was expected that a number of BP executives and managers, including those working on the rig the night of the explosion, would be charged.

All but one of the 14 criminal charges announced on Thursday relate to the night of the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon, and are based on the negligent misinterpretation of the negative pressure tests performed on the well.

A number of the investigations into the disaster have homed in on the final hours before the rig explosion, when engineers tried and abandoned different plans to finish off the well.

The final criminal count arises from statements BP officials made to a closed session of Congress about how much oil was gushing from its stricken well. The company is accused of deliberately underestimating the flow-rate – which experts say compromised efforts to cap the well.

It was not immediately clear how BP’s plea would affect its operations in the Gulf. The oil company remains one of the major players in deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP said it was not aware of any government actions to suspend or curtail its activities in the Gulf, as a result of the settlement.

The settlement could also clear the way for the justice department to come to a plea deal with BP’s partners on the doomed well: Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, which cemented the well.

BP oil spill toxins from Gulf of Mexico found in eggs of pelicans nesting in Minnesota

Nearly 80 percent of collected samples contained Corexit, a chemical dispersant used to break up oil spills. Both the petroleum compounds and Corexit are dangerous in small doses, capable of causing cancer, endocrine disruption, and birth defects.

thisdishisvegetarian.com | May 23, 2012

by Jonathan Reynolds

Researchers for the Department of Natural Resources have found evidence of petroleum compounds and the chemical used to clean up the 2010 BP oil spill in eggs of pelicans nesting in Minnesota.

Petroleum compounds were present in 90 percent of the first batch of eggs tested. Nearly 80 percent of collected samples contained Corexit, a chemical dispersant used to break up oil spills. Both the petroleum compounds and Corexit are dangerous in small doses, capable of causing cancer, endocrine disruption, and birth defects.

Pelicans generally spend winters in the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, and Cuba, before returning a full year later to begin breeding.

Mark Clark, an ecologist and faculty member of North Dakota State University, explained on Minnesota Public Radio that any contaminant in the bird is bad, especially when the egg is tampered with, “because that’s where the developing embryo and chick starts, and when things go wrong at that stage, there’s usually no recovery.”

The BP spill, similar to an atomic detonation, took its toll on the unfortunate victims in the immediate area, choking them to death on crude oil. Two years later, and for many more years to come, the chemical fallout is taking its toll, negatively impacting millions of innocent lives in drastic ways for generations to come.

Eyeless shrimp and mutant fish raise concerns over BP use of Corexit


Eyeless shrimp and fish with lesions are becoming common, with BP oil pollution believed to be the likely cause. (Al Jazeera / YouTube)

‘Eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills….’

– Darla Rooks, Louisiana fisher

Fox News | Apr 18, 2012

NEW ORLEANS –  Eyeless shrimp, fish with oozing sores and other mutant creatures found in the Gulf of Mexico are raising concerns over lingering effects of the BP oil spill.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels into the Gulf, in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Two years later, scientists and commercial fishers alike are finding shrimp, crab and fish that they believe have been deformed by the chemicals unleashed in the spill, according to an extensive report by Al Jazeera English.

“At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these,” Tracy Kuhns, a commercial fisher from Barataria, La., told Al Jazeera, showing a sample of the eyeless shrimp.

Darla Rooks, another lifelong fisher from Port Sulfur, La., told the broadcaster she was seeing “eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills.”

Rooks added that she had never seen such deformities in Gulf waters in her life — a refrain common to most fishers featured in the report — and said her seafood catch last year was “ten percent what it normally is.”

A survey led by the University of South Florida after the spill found that between two and five percent of fish in the Gulf now have skin lesions or sores, compared to data from before the spill, when just one-tenth of one percent of fish had any growths or sores.

Scientists blamed the mutations on the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) released from the spill’s submerged oil as well as the two million gallons of the dispersant Corexit that BP used in an attempt to clean up the spill.

“The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber,” Riki Ott, a toxicologist and marine biologist explained to Al Jazeera. “It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known.”

BP has maintained that Gulf seafood is safe, saying in a statement, “Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident.”

On Wednesday BP sealed an out-of-court, $7.8 billion settlement with lawyers acting on behalf of thousands of individuals and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Under the deal, the Gulf seafood industry is slated to receive over $2 billion for economic loss.

BP’s Corexit Oil Tar Sponged Up by Human Skin


Corexit® dispersed oil residue accelerates the absorption of toxins into the skin. The results aren’t visible under normal light (top), but the contamination into the skin appear as fluorescent spots under UV light (bottom). Credit: James H “Rip” Kirby III, Surfrider Foundation

motherjones.com | Apr 17, 2012

By Julia Whitty

The Surfrider Foundation has released its preliminary “State of the Beach” study for the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ongoing Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Sadly, things aren’t getting cleaner faster, according to their results. The Corexit that BP used to “disperse” the oil now appears to be making it tougher for microbes to digest the oil. I wrote about this problem in depth in “The BP Cover-Up.”

Gulf seafood deformities alarm scientists

The persistence of Corexit mixed with crude oil has now weathered to tar, yet is traceable to BP’s Deepwater Horizon brew through its chemical fingerprint. The mix creates a fluorescent signature visible under UV light. From the report:

The program uses newly developed UV light equipment to detect tar product and reveal where it is buried in many beach areas and also where it still remains on the surface in the shoreline plunge step area. The tar product samples are then analyzed…to determine which toxins may be present and at what concentrations. By returning to locations several times over the past year and analyzing samples, we’ve been able to determine that PAH concentrations in most locations are not degrading as hoped for and expected.

Worse, the toxins in this unholy mix of Corexit and crude actually penetrate wet skin faster than dry skin (photos above)—the author describes it as the equivalent of a built-in accelerant—though you’d never know it unless you happened to look under fluorescent light in the 370nm spectrum. The stuff can’t be wiped off. It’s absorbed into the skin.

And it isn’t going away. Other findings from monitoring sites between Waveland, Mississippi, and Cape San Blas, Florida over the past two years:

The use of Corexit is inhibiting the microbial degradation of hydrocarbons in the crude oil and has enabled concentrations of the organic pollutants known as PAH to stay above levels considered carcinogenic by the NIH and OSHA.

  •     26 of 32 sampling sites in Florida and Alabama had PAH concentrations exceeding safe limits.
  •     Only three locations were found free of PAH contamination.
  •     Carcinogenic PAH compounds from the toxic tar are concentrating in surface layers of the beach and from there leaching into lower layers of beach sediment. This could potentially lead to contamination of groundwater sources.

The full Surfrider Foundation report by James H. “Rip” Kirby III, of the University of South Florida is open-access online here.