May 06 2010

SHELBY QUESTIONS NOAA’S USE OF DISPERSANTS IN RECOVERY EFFORTS IN THE GULF

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala), today sent a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administer Dr. Jane Lubchenco requesting assistance in assessing the short and long term impacts that the oil spill will have on the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem and economy.  Additionally, Senator Shelby requested a meeting with the National Marine Fisheries Service to discuss the actions that they are taking to support the Gulf’s fishermen.

“While dispersants may be the best action to mitigate the oil spill, we must understand what the long term effects will be on the ecosystem,” said Shelby.  “Dispersants have never been used at this concentration level and it is still unknown what chemicals are actually being poured into the Gulf.  We need to understand if the treatment is worse than the disease…I am deeply concerned that the oil spill, in concert with overly restrictive red snapper regulations, will devastate the red snapper industry.  I ask that the National Marine Fisheries Service work to provide flexibility in the red snapper fishery by not reducing the fishing season further nor put additional bag limits in place.  ”


The full text of the letter is below. 

May 6, 2010

 

Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Administrator
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Room 5128
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Dr. Lubchenco,

I am writing to request your immediate assistance to assess the short and long term impacts that the oil spill will have on the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem and economy.  Clearly, the more than 190,000 gallons of dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico as of this morning will have serious impacts on the fish and wildlife dependent on the Gulf.  However, the Administration has appeared to gloss over the potential devastation that may be caused by the dispersants used in the recovery efforts.  What will be the long term results of dumping thousands of gallons of oil dispersant in the Gulf?  Dr. Lubchenco, we need to understand if the treatment is worse than the disease.

•What chemicals make up the dispersants?

•Has there ever been any environmental research or study done on the long term effects from the use of chemical dispersants? 

•Has any other entity across the globe - federal or private - used as much oil dispersant in one general area for so long to combat an oil slick? 

•Is the United States and BP’s response to the Deepwater accident setting a precedent for the use of oil dispersant?

•What is the largest concentration of dispersants used prior to the accident in the Gulf?

•Have there been any studies on the long-term impact oil dispersants will have on our ocean ecosystems? 

•Have you considered the impacts that dispersants will have on the ecological balance of the ecosystem?

•How much more dispersants are being used than the contingency plan originally anticipated?

•It is my understanding that after the Amoco Cadiz and the Exxon Valdez spills, dispersants led to ecological problems.  What are the lessons learned from these spills that you are applying to the use of dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico?

•What environmental repercussions or side effects can we expect the oil dispersants to produce in the deep ocean, at the surface, in the water column, and on the ocean floor? 

•Beyond what depth does the use of dispersants become impractical or ill-advised? 

•If the dispersants break the oil into pea-size particles that are floating near surface, what is the effect on the filter feeding fish, anchovies, menhaden, and sardines that are feeding in this oil layer?

While dispersants may be the best action to mitigate the oil spill, we must understand what the long term effects will be on the ecosystem.  It is my understanding that dispersants have never been used at this concentration and, thus far, it is publicly unknown what chemicals even make up the dispersants being used in the Gulf.  All the facts must be provided to the public so we can have a full and complete picture about the environmental impacts dispersants may cause.

Finally, the oil spill is already impacting the Gulf’s economy.  On May 2, NOAA closed federal waters to fishing in the Gulf.  I am deeply concerned that the oil spill, in concert with overly restrictive red snapper regulations, will devastate the red snapper industry.  I ask that the National Marine Fisheries Service work to provide flexibility in the red snapper fishery by not reducing the fishing season further nor put additional bag limits in place.  Further, I request that the National Marine Fisheries Service meet with my office prior to any Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting to discuss the actions that they are taking to support the fishermen in the Gulf during these difficult times.

I appreciate your assistance in this extremely important situation and look forward to hearing from you.

 


                                                                                    Sincerely,

 

                                                                                    Richard Shelby