On August 6, SkyTruth and four other environmental organizations comprising the Gulf Monitoring Consortium (GMC) announced their findings from a review of pollution reported from petrochemical and fossil fuel processing facilities during and immediately after Hurricane Isaac. Based self-reporting by “responsible parties” to state and federal authorities, GMC members found operators blamed the storm for at least the following pollution from their facilities:
341,044 gallons of oil, chemicals, and untreated waste-water
192.3 tons of gases and other materials (354,819 pounds)
12.6 million gallons of untreated “process area water” from one overwhelmed facility
After an additional review of pre-storm aerial surveys; post-storm monitoring efforts in the air, on the ground, and in the water; and analysis of satellite and aerial survey imagery, the Consortium concluded:
- Substantial amounts of pollution were released into the environment due to damage from the only hurricane to make landfall on the Gulf Coast in 2012.
- Harmful chemicals, including recognized neurotoxins and carcinogens, were released due to damage from the storm.
- Despite advance warning of the storm path and intensity, operators used the weather as an excuse for polluting.
- Fossil fuel infrastructure in the Gulf Region is vulnerable to predictable tropical weather events.
- Oil from the BP / Deepwater Horizon disaster continues to wash ashore.
We believe this is a particularly important issues as pressure is building to expand offshore oil and gas development to new coastlines, including hurricane-prone regions of the Eastern Seaboard like Virginia and North Carolina. In evaluating the trade-offs between offshore development, tourism, and fishing, citizens of these areas should be aware of the constant drumbeat of pollution reports we observe during routine petrochemical extraction and processing operations, and the repeated incidence of serious pollution that occurs when strong storms hit the coast.
We routinely observe significant pollution in the wake of strong storms. The coastal facilities required to support offshore oil and gas drilling continue to show dismaying vulnerability to storm damage. We found this to be true after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike; we experienced it yet again with Hurricane Isaac; and we’re reminded of it on a daily basis as we monitor the ongoing oil leak from a Taylor Energy platform destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan.
About GMC: The Consortium is a rapid response alliance that collects, analyzes and publishes images and other information acquired from space, from the air, and from the surface in order to investigate and expose pollution incidents that occur in the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast region.
GMC Member Organizations:
- Waterkeeper Alliance represented by the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper
- Gulf Restoration Network
- Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Below: Image highlights from GMC monitoring trips and Investigations – photos may be reproduced so long as credit is attributed to the individual or organizations named.