As the Buccaneer’s jack-up rig travels from Singapore to Alaska, and Escopeda’s jack-up rig is operating already, we’re seeing proof more oil and gas development projects are to become a bigger part of life in Cook Inlet. Buccaneer’s rig, the Endeavour, will be working near Anchor Point, and will be visible on the horizon as people drive the highway. Apache, which has the most land leases of any corporation doing business in the Inlet, will be doing its seismic testing for new wells in September.
This spells more jobs in that industry and more fuel production in an age of energy insecurities and high costs.
It is our hope that oil and gas development can be done responsibly, because there’s a lot at stake if any of the operators go wrong. Even dispersants used to clean oil slicks contain powerful toxins. This week, Cook Inletkeeper is joining with groups in the Lower 48 to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to take a tougher stand on dispersants used in cases of oil spills. The toxins in dispersants cause damage to marine life. An article in Scientific American advances the concept that we are fighting pollution with pollution when we clean oil spills with the dispersal compound COREXIT. It is capable of killing or depressing the growth of a wide range of aquatic species, ranging from phytoplankton to fish.
“It’s a trade-off decision to lessen the overall environmental impact,” said marine biologist Jane Lubchenco, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at a press conference on May 12. “When an oil spill occurs, there are no good outcomes.”
What’s in a dispersant?
Considered a trade secret, at first the company that makes it, Nalco, of Naperville, Ill., didn’t reveal the ingredients of COREXIT 9500 and 9527. Then in June, the EPA and Nalco both released the ingredient list for COREXIT 9500 in response to widespread public concern. It contains butanedioic acid, a wetting agent in cosmetics, sorbitan, found in everything from baby bath to food, and petroleum distillates in varying proportions — and it decomposes almost entirely in 28 days. “All six (ingredients) are used in day-to-day life —in mouthwash, toothpaste, ice cream, pickles,” Nalco’s chemist, Mani Ramesh, said. “We believe COREXIT 9500 is very safe.”
Yet, those solvents — petroleum distillates — are also known animal carcinogens. In England, they conducted the “Limpet Test” using that dispersant. It failed, killing the limpets. Now the United Kingdom won’t allow its use.
The question now, is how to make an effective dispersant that doesn’t do as much harm. Whatever else they are, the dispersants are effective in ridding the oil from the water. Regulation of chemicals and the chemical industry could help solve the mysteries surrounding dispersants.
Public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice filed this week’s lawsuit on behalf of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Cook Inletkeeper, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Waterkeeper Alliance and Sierra Club.
If any good is to come from this, it will be that the EPA tightens restrictions on the use of chemicals and urges the chemical labs to come up with a better product.
We living in proximity to many more years of oil and gas development would appreciate it.
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