A summary of events Wednesday, July 7, Day 78 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well.
Religious leaders who see environmental activism or “creation care” as a religious duty are visiting the Gulf of Mexico, viewing regions hit by oil from the spill and hoping to win converts for their cause. Members of a loose coalition of religious groups committed to environmentalism see the spill as a chance for an ecological Great Awakening, but doubts persist in the region. Loyalty to the oil and gas industries make the preachers’ message a hard sell for many believers.
MORATORIUM SOUGHT AGAIN
The federal government is seeking to have a court reinstate a moratorium on deepwater drilling. In a filing with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the government argued for the reversal of a judge’s ruling that the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning for the six-month halt to drilling. A lawsuit against the moratorium was filed by Hornbeck Offshore, an oil field service company that claims it would have severe economic consequences.
BIRD TOLL RISES
Roughly 420 birds harmed by oil have been found on the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, according to Ken Rice, director of wildlife rescue in those states. About 190 of the birds were found dead. The species hit the hardest has been the Northern Gannet, which spends most of its life over open seas. Other birds impacted include Brown Pelicans, terns, loons and shore birds. A substantial number of birds harmed by oil are never found, Rice said.
GOVERNMENT WANTS NOTICE
The U.S. Attorney General’s office has asked BP for advance notice of any asset sales or significant cash transfers, the company said. Normally, the Justice Department doesn’t require advance notification of such deals. The letter, from U.S. Assistant Attorney General Tony West, underscores the federal government’s intense scrutiny of BP as it struggles to cap the leak in the Gulf. A company spokeswoman said BP will respond “in due course.”
Choppy seas held up oil skimming operations all along the Gulf coast, although boats off Louisiana’s shoreline hoped to be back at work before the day ended. In Mobile, Coast Guard Cmdr. Chuck Diorio said waves were seven feet off the sea buoy in places, well above the four feet that serves as the upper limit for most skimmers. Rough waves have halted offshore skimming in Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana for over a week.
PROBLEMS WITH CASH
Deck hands and other day laborers in the Gulf region who get paid in cash and may not file tax returns are struggling to prove the oil spill has hurt them financially. For its claims process, BP requests tax returns for 2007 through 2009, but is willing to work with other documents such as deposit slips and wage loss statements. Many day laborers, though, are fearful of coming forward because of their murky status and past refusal to file income tax returns, attorney Stuart Smith said.
The Associated Press