Nathan Rushton, Eureka Reporter

Feb. 20, 2008

 

EUREKA - To avoid further litigation, Simpson Timber Co. has struck a deal with two environmental groups to remove tons fo sediment laden with the toxic compound dioxin from a former mill site at the foot of Del Norte Street in Eureka.

The settlement agreement stems from a lawsuit filed in 2006 under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act against Simpson Timber by Eureka-based Humboldt Baykeeper and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics.

Tests of the soil where plywood was apparently sprayed in the 1960s with the now-banned wood preservative pentachlorophenol found dioxin at levels at tens of thousands of times higher than thresholds established by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the environmental groups.

Humboldt Baykeeper director Pete Nichols said in a news release that the settlement is a pivotal step in addressing and fixing the dioxin problem in and around Humboldt Bay.

“The work required under this agreement will help protect those who fish from this public pier and throughout the bay, in addition to the fish and other inhabitants of the Bay,” Nichols said.

According to the consent decree document, Simpson Timber denies all of the allegations raised by the environmental groups in the original lawsuit of violations and that the conditions posed an “imminent or substantial endangerment” to people or the environment.

Eureka Times Standard, Feb. 21, 2008

The Simpson Timber Co. will be removing tons of sediment contaminated with dioxin from the foot of Del Norte Street a part of a settlement of a 2006 lawsuit filed by Humboldt Baykeeper and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics.

The lawsuit came after tests were conducted near the site of a former Simpson plywood mill, where the company commonly sprayed plywood with the now-banned wood preservative pentachlorophenol in the 1960s, revealed the presence of dioxin, according to joint news release from Humboldt Baykeeper and CATS. Dioxin is an accidental byproduct of pentachlorophenol, according to Patty Clary of CATS.

The tests revealed the presence of dioxin at levels "tens of thousands of times higher than Environmental Protection Agency standards," according to the news release.

4/29/10 Boston Globe

States along the Gulf of Mexico have bet their fishing and tourism industries on the safety of oil drilling offshore, and that bet, which New England has refused to make, has turned into a losing one. The nation as a whole should take the growing oil spill in the Gulf as a warning — that there are consequences to relying so heavily on fossil fuels, and that domestic oil production is no panacea for US energy needs.

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8/26/10

Back in June, with oil still spewing from BP’s blown-out well, President Obama charged Navy Secretary Ray Mabus with crafting a Gulf Coast restoration plan that would address  the short-term impacts of the spill as well as the long-term environmental challenges facing the region. This week, Mr. Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, pledged that the first iteration of that plan would be unveiled soon.

“My task is to develop a road map for recovery once the oil spill is contained and cleaned up once and for all,” he wrote in an editorial for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans on Tuesday. “On behalf of gulf residents, I will deliver that framework for our path forward to the president within the coming few weeks.”

The report is already the focus of intense interest, with Gulf Coast politicians and local and national nonprofit groups calling for billions of dollars in funds not just to repair the damage caused by the oil spill, but also to restore coastal wetlands degraded by decades of oil and gas development and the wide-scale engineering of the Mississippi River for flood control and navigation.

 

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8/2/10

NEW ORLEANS — The BP spill is by far the world’s largest accidental release of oil into marine waters, according to the most precise estimates yet of the well’s flow rate, announced by federal scientists on Monday.

Nearly five million barrels of oil have gushed from BP’s well since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, according to the latest data. That amount outstrips the estimated 3.3 million barrels spilled into the Bay of Campeche by the Mexican rig Ixtoc I in 1979, previously believed to be the world’s largest accidental release.

The BP spill was already thought to be the largest spill in American waters, but it was unclear whether it had eclipsed Ixtoc.

“We’ve never had a spill of this magnitude in the deep ocean,” said Ian R. MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University.

“These things reverberate through the ecosystem,” he said. “It is an ecological echo chamber, and I think we’ll be hearing the echoes of this, ecologically, for the rest of my life.”

Federal science and engineering teams, citing data that are “the most accurate to date,” estimated that 53,000 barrels of oil a day were pouring from the well just before BP was able to cap it on July 15. They also estimated that the daily flow rate had diminished over time, starting at about 62,000 barrels a day and decreasing as the reservoir of hydrocarbons feeding the gusher was gradually depleted. Before Monday’s announcement, federal scientific teams had estimated the spill in a range from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day.

The teams believe that the current estimates are accurate to within 10 percent. They also reported that of the roughly 4.9 million barrels that had been released from the well, about 800,000 had been captured by BP’s containment efforts. That leaves over four million barrels that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from April 20 to July 15.

As the estimates of the number of barrels spilled increases, so, too, do the penalties under the Clean Water Act, which calls for fines of $1,100 per barrel, or $4,300 per barrel if the government finds that gross negligence led to the spill.

At 4.9 million barrels, that means that the total fine could be $5.4 billion — and, if gross negligence led to the spill, $21 billion. If BP successfully argues that the 800,000 barrels it has recovered should mitigate the penalty, then the figure drops to $4.5 billion and $17.6 billion, respectively.

The amount of oil estimated to be pouring from the well has been a matter of dispute from the earliest days of the spill. Federal and BP officials initially announced that no oil appeared to be leaking, then 1,000 barrels a day, then 5,000 a day, frequently repeating that spill estimates are rough at best and that the main goal was to stop the well. But criticism mounted that no effort was being made to measure the leak with more certainty. 

 

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