How Satellite Data Caught Gulf Oil Companies Hiding Enormous Oil Spills

"An organization called SkyTruth is monitoring drilling companies for drastically underestimating the amount of oil they spill into the ocean."

"In the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 17% of U.S. crude oil production, appetite for drilling is ticking up amid President Trump’s drive for energy deregulation. In late March, the Department of Interior auctioned off over 900,000 acres of leases in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf for $275 million, up from $156 million last year. That might be worrisome, given that the area is still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon spill, but don’t worry: The oil industry often contends that, barring the occasional mega-disaster, offshore drilling is by and large a safe, if not overregulated, practice.

However, according to a new report from three Louisiana-based environmental groups, offshore oil accidents in the Gulf of Mexico are a more regular and serious occurrence than the industry is willing to admit. The report—released in March by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 350 Louisiana, and—pulled directly from a Coast Guard data clearinghouse and found 479 reports of offshore oil accidents in the northern Gulf in 2016. That’s an average of about nine spills per week, dumping a total of nearly 18,000 gallons of oil and other substances into the environment.

Compared to the size of the 2010 BP disaster, which released anywhere from 134 million to 176 million gallons, that might seem small. But even that 18,000 gallon estimate could be seriously lowballed, say report authors. The Coast Guard data, collected under the National Response Center (NRC), is actually self-reported by the oil companies responsible (the NRC also accepts reports from the public, but these are less common)."

Lauren Zanolli reports for Fast Company April 27, 2017.

Source: Fast Company, 05/03/2017