Monday, May 24, 2010

EPA & BP Fight Over Corexit Oil Dispersant Use in Gulf

After initially approving use of the Corexit oil dispersant via the 'Dispersant Monitoring and Assessment Directive for Subsurface Dispersant Application' protocol, EPA changed its mind and ordered BP to stop using Corexit and to switch to a less toxic product. BP refused the stop order and is defending Corexit as approved and available. However, EPA, in reexaming its initial approval of use of Corexit, concluded that so little is known about the use of dispersants on this scale or underwater that only the least toxic of approved products should be chosen. The hundreds of thousands of gallons of Corexit that BP has already used is the most chemical dispersant ever used in United States waters.

Stay tuned. The Obama administration is livid over this response and the ongoing catastrophy that is now being described as the 'worst environmental disaster in American history.' The Center is considering a program to mitigate the oil contamination in the Gulf. We are considering putting together a team to implement the use of Bio-Matrix Peat Moss to assist in solving oil contamination problem.

EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard have concluded that dispersants are less toxic and shorter-lived than the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. However, they also accept that much remains unknown about their impact on the environment when used in these unprecedented volumes. For that reason, EPA and the USCG directed that BP use dispersants in the most effective and efficient way possible, thereby minimizing the total amount used. What the monitoring data indicates so far is that the underwater use of dispersants is effective at breaking up the oil and, to this point, does not seem to have had any significant impacts on aquatic life. Using the dispersant underwater at the source of the leak also requires far less dispersant to be applied. For this reason, EPA and USCG have informed BP that they should focus the use of dispersants underwater and only use the dispersants on the surface under specific conditions- for example, if they are unable to apply them underwater for a period of time. This could cut overall dispersant use by half and possibly more.

· EPA and U.S. Coast Guard consider BP’s scientific analysis of alternative dispersants insufficient. Late last week EPA directed BP to analyze other available, pre-approved dispersants to determine if an alternative dispersant proved less toxic and more effective. BP responded within 24 hours by rejecting the EPA directive. EPA and the Coast Guard believe their response was insufficient and lacked sufficient analysis. EPA is concerned that BP seemed, in their response, more interested in defending their initial decisions than analyzing possible better options.

· EPA and other government scientists will independently verify the data presented by BP. As a result of being dissatisfied with the response, and to ensure that EPA knows as much as they can know about the current environmental impact, EPA will be performing independent scientific verification of the data BP presented. EPA will conduct their own tests to determine the least toxic, most effective dispersant available in the volumes necessary for a crisis of this magnitude. EPA's toxicity tests will address the claims and conclusions put forth by BP in their response to EPA late last week. And EPA scientists have been tasked with conducting parallel, independent tests to determine if BP’s argument that Corexit remains the best alternative is accurate and supported by the science.

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