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A Gulf Coast Eden sullied by oil

Bottlenose dolphins swim in oily water in Chandeleur Sound, La. (Alex Brandon/AP)

By Marc Kaufman

Grand Gosier Island, La. -- All around this tiny spit of sand in the Gulf of Mexico is extraordinary life of kinds of all kinds: dolphins, shark, redfish, brown pelicans, plovers, even frigate birds.

Rich to the extreme, the island is the Gulf Coast at its most magical. It is also now surrounded by oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Not a cover of black ooze, but widespread oily sheens, globs of mixed oil and dispersant, and the pungent smell of a gas station.

And all those remarkable fish, sea mammals and birds are now swimming through that oil, eating smaller fish suffused with it, and no doubt becoming disoriented or possibly poisoned by it.

The dolphins appeared to be the most affected: A group of up to 50 of the silvery mammals (famed for their intelligence) swam in circles near the island, staying close to the surface and sometimes making sounds that sounded very much like coughing.

Regan Nelson, a marine specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, was on the trip and said the behaviors were consistent with signs of distress that could lead to the dolphins beaching themselves. Grand Gosier Island is about ten miles from the mainland.


Mike Shepard

 |  May 7, 2010; 6:00 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Oil spills happen, both naturally and otherwise. We know this, and we have known this for many years. But we still need to drive our cars to work, and make plastic, and heat our homes. No one is willing to give that up, no matter how many dead manatees make it onto the news. And so any reactionary measures are likely to cause more harm than good. The best we can do is minimize oil spills by imposing rigorous standards of procedure, multiple layers of oversight, and trying to reduce overall consumption of oil as much as possible.

Here's what we have to gain from getting out of oil (Middle Eastern or otherwise): (1) no more dependence on decadent dictatorships - we can't really go around preaching peace and freedom when we're forced to publicly make out with crime lords, opium barons, and people who consider themselves living gods; (2) significantly reduced greenhouse gas pollution; (3) we can stop getting ripped off by OPEC; (4) we can avoid coming tensions with Russia, Canada, and Greenland over access to Arctic oil deposits; (5) the exorbitant prices our citizens pay to meet their daily energy needs will no longer line the pockets of speculators, currency manipulators, and day-traders; (6) we will have incentives to develop new energy technologies, which we can then market to the rest of the world.

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Posted by: ChristopherCarr | May 7, 2010 1:27 PM
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The Center for Responsive Politics ranks BP as one of the top donors to political campaigns over the twenty years having given in excess of $6 million to congressional and presidential campaigns. The ten biggest recipients of BP contributions still in Congress are Rep. Don Young ($73,300), Sen. John McCain ($44,899), Sen. George Voinovich ($41,400), Rep. John Dingell ($31,000), Sen. Mary Landrieu ($28,200), Rep. Joe Barton ($27,350), Sen. Jim Inhofe ($22,300), Sen. Mitch McConnell ($22,000), Rep. John Culberson ($20,950) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison ($19,500).

BP has focused a good portion of their campaign contributions on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. The committee is scheduled to begin hearings on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Wednesday. Since 1989, BP has contributed a total of $195,550 to the current 51 members of the committee. Rep. Barton is the ranking member of the committee. Rep. Dingell is chairman emeritus and was recently deposed as chairman by Rep. Henry Waxman. Other top recipients include Rep. Ralph Hall ($14,500), Rep. Fred Upton ($13,100) and Rep. Roy Blunt ($12,500).

While BP made investments in Congress with their wide reach of contributions, some lawmakers made investments in BP. At least 17 lawmakers reported holding stock in BP in their most recent personal financial disclosure filings. Rep. James Sensenbrenner holds the largest amount of stock in BP with a value between $100,001 and $250,000. One member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, Rep. Upton, also holds stock in BP valued between $16,002 and $65,000.

The lobbying team assembled by BP also provides the company with reach into both Congress and executive branch. Twenty-five of the thirty-seven lobbyists listed in 2010 first quarter lobbying disclosures as being hired by BP have previous government experience. This includes two former top aides to Sen. Landrieu, a former aide to the Energy & Commerce Committee, former congressman Jim Turner and 15 others with congressional experience.

The former Energy & Commerce Committee staffer, Courtney Johnson, was listed as the host for two fundraisers over last year, according to the Party Time database. One was for Rep. Dingell, the former Energy & Commerce chairman. The other was for the political action committee of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a lawmaker close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Prolific Democratic fundraiser Tony Podesta is listed as a lobbyist for BP. Podesta is listed as hosting eighteen fundraisers since the beginning of the 111th Congress.

Other congressman who have had held fundraisers hosted by lobbyists hired by BP since the beginning of 2009 include Rep. Walt Minnick, Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (twice), Rep. Barbara Lee, Sen. John Thune, Rep. Kay Granger, Sen. Richard Burr, Rep. Glenn Nye (twice) and Rep. Dennis Moore.

Posted by: francinelast | May 7, 2010 12:07 PM
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