This was originally written by Kert Davies.
While some news reports attempt to downplay the amount of damage that has been done, it's clear that the Gulf oil disaster is one of the worst environmental tragedies in US history. This catastrophe has also further revealed the extraordinary extent of the oil industry’s influence on our government. Many questions remain unanswered about government communications with BP and other oil companies, underwater oil plumes, impacts to marine wildlife, chemical dispersants, oil drilling safety regulation, and more.
We've submitted 27 Freedom of Information Act requests to multiple government agencies and two Public Records Act Requests to the offices of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. The scope of these FOIA requests were derived from our ongoing field research as well as tips from local activists and reporters.
The following is a list of the requests we've filed. In parentheses after each item is the agency with whom the request was filed (click on any of the agencies to view a PDF of the request).
- Details of any and all mammal spotter flights conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Gulf region (USFSW)
- Any and all chain of custody forms for deceased wildlife in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details regarding turtles being killed in controlled oil burns in the Gulf region (USCG, NOAA, USFWS)
- Details of U.S. Navy flights contracted for whale and dolphin sightings in the Gulf region (Navy)
- Details of any and all communications or information regarding any of 23 endangered or threatened species of concern in the Gulf region including sperm whales and sea turtles (NOAA, USCG)
- Details of any communications about “carcass collection facilities” in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details of any communications between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and BP concerning dead mammals or marine life in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details of Natural Resource Damage Assessment flights (USFWS)
Oil drilling safety regulation
- Details of communication between the United States Coast Guard and ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and/or ConocoPhillips concerning the safety of oil rigs in the Gulf and/or the term “blowout preventers” (USCG)
- Details of communications between the Minerals Management Service and the Offshore Operators Committee Deep Spills Working Group. (BOEMRE)
- Details of any information concerning the 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf (BOEMRE)
- Details of all internal communications regarding the 23 blowouts that have occurred on oil rigs in the Gulf since 2006. (BOEMRE)
- Details of all communications between MMS staffers K. Stauffer and J. McCarroll who contributed to deepwater environmental assessments (BOEMRE)
- Communications with USGS staff member Keith A. Kvenvolden concerning natural oil seeps (USGS)
- Details of violations and inspections and the certification process of the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port facility (USCG)|
- Internal communications within and between the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard and BP concerning directives on dispersant use and exemptions granted to BP by the Coast Guard (EPA, USCG)
- Details of the effectiveness of sub-sea dispersant application, how the Environmental Protection Agency has monitored BP’s use of dispersants, and the point at which dispersants have a greater environmental impact than leaked oil (EPA)
- Flight records of C-130 aircraft carrying chemical dispersants (FAA, USCG)
- Records of dispersant-carrying aircraft with specific call signs flying out of Stennis International Airport (FAA)
- Details of communications regarding BP employees or contractors and their authority or ability to police public lands (USCG)
Underwater oil plumes
- Internal communications from NOAA missions to search for underwater oil plumes (NOAA)
- Details of all meetings and correspondence between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and BP regarding underwater oil plumes (NOAA)
Communication Between Oil Companies and State Offices
- Details of any and all internal and external communications between Governor Bobby Jindal or any of his staff and the following companies: BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and/or the American Petroleum Institute (Office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal)
- Details of any and all internal and external communications between Governor Haley Barbour or any of his staff and the following companies: BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and/or the American Petroleum Institute (Office of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour)