Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Sale of oil in Biden Bay means more drilling at a former chemical dump

Biden administration sale of oil and gas for rent The Gulf of Mexico last week not only recorded decades of future drilling and greenhouse gas emissions, it also opened up new mining opportunities in an area where chemical companies dump tons of hazardous industrial waste.

Off the Louisiana coast, in an area known as the Mississippi Canyon, thousands of ten-year-old 55-gallon barrels of toxic waste are strewn across the 200-square-mile ocean floor, HuffPost reports. disclosed earlier this year The chemical giants received federal permits to landfill there in the 1970s, and the area has been largely neglected since then.

The EPA acknowledged that it does not monitor legacy landfills and has little or no idea of ​​the continuing environmental impact. In light of the HuffPost posting, the agency said it has begun an assessment to determine if the site meets the requirements for cleaning under the federal Superfund program.

But the waste left over decades ago hasn’t thwarted fossil fuel interests in the area. Oil and gas companies are already drilling in the barrel fields with the participation of federal agencies. allowing them to determine how best to avoid and reduce the impact on existing drums. In fact, it was Shell’s drilling plan that shed light on the status of the remaining holes, noting that many “still appear intact” and “may or may not contain original content.”

During last week’s auction – the largest sale of offshore oil and gas fields in US history – Chevron Corp. Murphy Exploration & Productionon Co. and Houston Energy LP received new drilling rights on leased offshore areas where barrels were placed.

Chevron paid $ 256,442.40 to rent two blocks that are part of the landfill. Murphy Exploration and Houston Energy paid $ 154,362.80 and $ 151,744.80, respectively, for the lease of one block each.

The three companies did not respond to requests for comment from HuffPost.

As with previous lease deals in the Persian Gulf, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has alerted potential bidders to a “dormant industrial waste landfill” on its site. final notice of sale

“Site created [Environmental Protection Agency] in 1973 in accordance with the Marine Environment Protection, Research and Reserves Act, which allowed the deposition of approximately 205,000 steel drums containing chemical waste and chlorinated hydrocarbons on the seabed, ”the notice said. “Bidders and tenants are advised that the blocks associated with the landfill site and adjacent blocks that are included in the sales area may pose a hazard associated with the contents of the barrel (toxic, corrosive and / or potentially explosive materials).”

The document lists lease plots where barrels are known to exist, but this probably does not provide a complete picture. According to past notices to tenants, marine investigations have identified barrels up to 10 miles from the designated landfill boundary.

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This map shows the offshore leased areas at the bottom of which buried waste drums were found during hazard surveys.

At the Mississippi Canyon site, fuel additives company Ethyl Corp. received EPA approval to discharge approximately 19,000 barrels of waste sludge containing liquid metal salts and calcium – drums that may still present an explosion hazard. According to the 1975 National Academy of Sciences, DuPont dumped at least 1,300 barrels of waste, including “a wide variety of inorganic salts, industrial organics and chlorinated hydrocarbons.” report on ocean pollutants.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons, or CHCs, are a family of toxic chemicals that can persist in the environment and become concentrated in marine organisms.

Scientists previously interviewed by HuffPost expressed concern about the potential for these substances to migrate up the food chain, where they could pose a health hazard. They also argued that the internal policy of oil giant Shell to keep a distance of 33 feet from the drums was insufficient to avoid damaging the remaining contents.

“Hazard studies are needed before breaching activities can be approved in plans and permits,” the Bureau of Ocean Energy wrote in its notice of sale last week in the Persian Gulf. “The drilling and placement of the platform / pipeline may require precautions such as avoidance (recommended minimum distance of 30 feet from individual drums), equipment decontamination, and personnel health and safety procedures.”

An EPA spokesperson told HuffPost that an initial Superfund selection is slated to be completed by the end of the year.

It is unclear whether BOEM was considering excluding parts of the Mississippi Canyon from its recent lease sale pending EPA estimates. BOEM official representative John Philostratus said the bureau could not comment on the pending EPA report.

“For the 257 sale, BOEM has included exemptions and leases to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse impacts on protected species, and prevent potential conflicts between oil and gas development and other activities and users in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said via email. … “Before any activity taking place on the outer continental shelf, companies must survey the seabed and shallow water sediments to identify potential hazards before undertaking any action that disrupts the seabed. This avoids any dangers. “

Environmentalists and climate activists emphatically convicted The Biden administration’s Gulf of Mexico lease deal last week is clearly at odds with the president’s own climate goals and comes at a time when the world can least afford to allow rich countries to expand fossil fuel development.

The auction ended up bringing in more than $ 191 million, and oil and gas companies acquired drilling rights on more than 1.7 million acres of offshore space – an area larger than Delaware.

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