Monday, October 06, 2008

Oil Spills in the Wake of Hurricane Ike

My local newspaper carried a story on the oil spills caused by Hurricane Ike. Unfortunately, the story appeared on page 11; that's not exactly prominently displayed news (it was preceded by a major story on a new hotel being built and several human interest stories, including one on owners of exotic pets). Like Hurricane Katrina, the news coverage of oil spills caused by the latest hurricane has been minimal. Here's the AP story from the Austin American-Statesman:
Hurricane Ike's winds and waves caused at least a half-million gallons of crude oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico and the marshes, bayous and bays of Texas and Louisiana, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data.

Days before and after the storm, which destroyed oil platforms, tossed storage tanks and punctured pipelines, companies and residents reported at least 448 releases of oil, gasoline and dozens of other substances into the air and water and onto the ground in Texas and Louisiana.

In California, even a 50,000 gallon oil spill is usually big news, at least in the bigger papers. The damage from an oil spill of that size can be documented. So the total of a half million gallons spilled in the wake of Hurricane Ike should be big news anywhere in addition to stories on all of the other damage. I give credit to AP for specifically focusing on the oil spill but I noticed the figure of 448 releases. That's curious. In the following story, the Houston Chronicle notes almost five times the number of spills or 'releases':
While state and federal authorities have reported 2,221 spills of oil and other hazardous materials from Houston to Lake Charles, La., none of them is considered major.

Maybe some reporter in Texas will take the trouble to explain the differences in the amounts and the characterizations. Certainly, given the failed oil executive currently occupying the White House, we are unlikely to get a clear answer from the federal government, though I suspect a few honest federal emplyees would love nothing more than to explain what happened.

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