BP Amnesia: Life and Death After the Spill

Oil Rig.(Photo: arbyreed / Flickr)As weathered oil and dead marine life continue to wash up on Gulf shores, environmentalists worry that America has failed to heed the lessons of the summer of 2010, when an ocean of oil gushed from a broken pipe, and mesmerized a nation.

On a hot summer day in June, representatives from some of the world’s richest oil companies gathered at the Superdome in New Orleans, where Interior Secretary Ken Salazar declared, “[The] Gulf of Mexico is back in business,” as he kicked off a federal auction of 39 million acres of offshore drilling leases.

The auction was the Obama administration’s second big sale of Gulf of Mexico leases since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster claimed the lives of 11 workers and released more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf. BP bid nearly $240 million that day, just two years after the catastrophic blowout, and gobbled up 43 drilling leases in the same central region of the Gulf where the company struggled for months to stop the oil gushing from the now-infamous Macondo well.

Six weeks after the auction, Hurricane Isaac spewed tar balls and large oil slicks along the Gulf shore, from Alabama to Louisiana. Lab tests confirmed the storm had churned up remnants from the massive BP spill, a grim reminder that oil continues to impact ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tar balls are not the only reminder washing up on shore. Earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

“The federal government is failing to learn from one of the most environmentally and economically destructive incidents in US history,” said David Pettit, a senior attorney for the NRDC. “Fresh oil from the Macondo well continues to wash ashore … and the government is being negligent by issuing leases to drill now and drill deeper without ensuring all necessary precautions.”

Pettit told Truthout that, despite reforms to deep-water drilling regulation made since the BP spill, regulators continue to issue drilling permits without the detailed analysis necessary to understand the potential environmental impacts on already damaged ecosystems. On ” >facilitated by fracking, but the %20″ >Romney promises to aggressively expand offshore drilling, including off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas, and to quickly approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that Obama left in political limbo until 2013. As of August, Romney’s campaign has enjoyed more than $6 million in ” > initial size of the spill.

To the administration’s credit, the Justice Department has ” >theoretically on desktops with model exercises, not in the ocean itself. In fact, a full-scale test of how regulators and the industry would respond to another runaway offshore well in the Gulf of Mexico was not completed until July 30, 2012, when Shell successfully tested a new capping stack 6,900 feet below the surface of the Gulf.

“I was glad to see the … test work out. But things didn’t go so well for Shell in Alaska,” Pettit said in a reference to Shell’s recent decision to temporarily suspend a controversial drilling operation off Alaska’s north coast after an oil spill containment dome malfunctioned during a