THE LIGHTBULB

Nearly 15 years after the start of the longest-lasting oil spill the Gulf of Mexico has ever seen, the federal government finally assessed how much oil has been leaked. 

That estimate is starkly different than the number of gallons publicly claimed by the company that owned the oil-production platform, Taylor Energy. As The Post's Darryl Fears reports, two scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with and a Florida State University professor, found that up to 108 barrels of oil, or more than 4,500 gallons, is being released from the site off of the Lousiana coast every day.

Compare that to what the company had been saying: That less than three gallons is being released into the ocean daily.

That is not something Taylor Energy really wanted to let the world know. The oil spill went undiscovered until about a decade ago when environmental watchdog groups found oil slicks while monitoring the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. The spill began after Hurricane Ivan triggered a mudslide that collapsed the oil platform in 2004. 

The NOAA report suggests the environmental damage from the long-lasting leak could be greater than once anticipated, giving critics of President Trump's plan to open more of the ocean to offshore drilling another reason to oppose the proposal. The Interior Department put those plans on pause earlier this year after a federal judge found that Trump’s revocation of a ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is illegal.

For their assessment, done at the behest of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, a division of the Interior Department, federal scientists relied on a couple new techniques to measure the amount of oil leaking. Per Fears:

Normally this type of assessment takes at least two years, but the bureau wanted it done in less than one, Mason said. So for seven days starting Sept. 1, the three scientists focused solely on studying the oil and not its effects on marine life and the environment.

They used two methodologies and two devices to measure oil bubbling out of a pit created by the disaster, where a tangle of pipes and Taylor Energy’s 28 wells are still releasing crude.

A new device called a bubblometer allowed them to film and count oil and gas coming out of the pit. An acoustic device allowed them to estimate the flux rate of oil and gas plumes rising from the ocean floor.

The study author's conclusion: “The results of this study contradict these conclusions by the Taylor Energy Company."

NOAA's next step is to study not just how much oil leaked, but also how much damage has been done to the natural resources in the area. 

Read the rest of the story here: 

Climate and Environment
The report estimates that up to 108 barrels per day — more than 4,500 gallons — are flowing from a site where an oil company’s platform and wells were destroyed during a hurricane.
Darryl Fears
POWER PLAYS

— Democrats in uproar over buried climate-related reports: Democrats, including presidential contenders, are calling on the Trump administration to explain its reasoning for reportedly burying government-funded research on climate dangers, Politico reports.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expressing “deep concern and alarm at recent reports” that the agency suppressed such studies and called for more information about which studies were not publicized and why. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) also called on the agency to “release the science.” Another Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) tweeted the agency is “shamefully fighting against #science” and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said the administration “should not be burying vital research that will help us understand and combat the effects of climate change.”

— Blurred lines between U.N. pick and her coal magnate spouse: After senior EPA officials sent an email to Kelly Craft, the current U.S. ambassador to Canada and Trump’s pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, the agency received a response instead from her husband Joseph Craft, a wealthy GOP donor and coal magnate, the Associated Press reports.

Joseph Craft had been “taking part in a months-long press by the coal industry for access and regulatory relief from the EPA and the Trump administration in general.” “The blurring of roles — and email accounts — by the Crafts this time and others since she began representing the U.S. is raising questions as senators consider her nomination" to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the AP reports. “That post would give her a prime seat at international talks to fight climate change, in part by encouraging limits on the burning of coal, with its heat-trapping emissions.”

— The latest delay for funding for Puerto Rico: Even after President Trump signed a law meant to in part deliver $600 million in food stamp aid to Puerto Rico in a massive disaster relief package, the administration still hasn’t given the U.S. territory the funds.

Now, the Puerto Rican government says it doesn’t expect to be able to spend that funding for food stamps until September, which would be “six months after food stamp cuts began for the more than 1 million island residents who rely on the program,” The Post’s Jeff Stein and Arelis R. Hernandez report. “While the reason for it was not immediately clear, the unexpected delay to Puerto Rico’s food stamp aid reflects the ongoing dysfunction in securing the release of federal funding for the U.S. territory that is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria in fall 2017.”

— No SCOTUS review for challenge to Trump’s tariffs: The high court said it won’t hear a challenge to Trump’s 25 percent tariffs on steel imports. The American Institute for International Steel called on the Supreme Court to review a March ruling from the U.S. Court of International Trade on the constitutionality of the tariffs. “The institute brought its lawsuit in June 2018, arguing that a section of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which allows presidents to impose tariffs based on national security, is unconstitutional because it delegates too much discretion to the president at the expense of Congress,” Reuters reports.

THERMOMETER

— Medical groups call climate change a “health emergency”: Dozens of medical and public health groups released a climate change agenda in the days ahead of the first Democratic presidential primary debate, warning about the dire effects of global warming. “The health, safety and well-being of millions of people in the U.S. have already been harmed by human-caused climate change, and health risks in the future are dire without urgent action to fight climate change,” they wrote, according to the Associated Press. The groups also say they want lawmakers and presidential candidates to pursue carbon pricing as well as a “plan and timeline for reduction of fossil fuel extraction in the U.S.”

— Technology to help fight fires: For the last year and a half, the Los Angeles Fire Department has been testing a program called FireMap that is meant to predict where active fires will spread. The program, created by the WiFire Lab at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, “pulls together real-time information about topography, flammable materials and weather conditions, among other variables, from giant government data sets and on-the-ground sensors,” the New York Times reports. “…Wildfires are still won and lost through grueling, terrifying work in the field, and some fires simply move too quickly for firefighters to contain, with or without a supercomputer. But fire chiefs in the region believe the predictive technology could provide an extra tool when they need to make decisions quickly.”

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
  • The House Science Committee holds a hearing on oversight of the Energy Department's research and development with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources holds a hearing on uranium mining.
  • The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment holds a hearing on protecting and restoring America's iconic waters.
  • The House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on the Environment holds a hearing on natural disasters and climate change.

Coming Up

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power hold a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hold a hearing on nuclear waste on Thursday.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— Dust is traveling to the Gulf Coast from Africa: Dust from the Sahara Desert has set up skies across the Gulf Coast to be painted with vibrant sunsets. It’s also keeping storms at bay, Matthew Cappucci writes for The Post, explaining the “bone-dry air containing this dust is thwarting any attempt by tropical storms to develop and threaten land.”