Chevron's new drilling campaign off Shetland Islands could trigger worse spill than BP's. "Deepwater Horizon has given us a new perspective on how bad things could be," said Richard Cohagan, managing director at Chevron UK. "When we looked at the core pressures and what seismic has shown us might be the producing interval, we calculated what the largest spill rate could be." That estimate is 77,000 barrels a day.
Source: The Telegraph (UK)
Coastal Recovery Commission holds second meeting
The meeting was held in Mobile on Tuesday; Alabama's Gov. Riley established the commission after the oil spill.
Source: Press-Register (AL)
Florida: Gubernatorial hopeful Alex Sink attacks White House oil spill response. Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer and a gubernatorial candidate said yesterday that she absolutely did not like the way President Obama handled the damages claims.
Source: The Hill
Majority of likely voters say they support expanded offshore drilling
The poll ” conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, National Journal and the Pew Research Center from Oct. 21-24 “finds that 59 percent of likely voters would approve of allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling. Just 35 percent would disapprove.
Source: Washington Independent
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Mental health troubles brewing along the Gulf Coast.
ORANGE BEACH, ALA. - Her income down to virtually nothing because of the BP oil spill, Margaret Carruth put her face in her hands and wept recently at a town hall meeting before walking outside to what passes for home these days, her blue pickup.
Xanax helps her rest. Still, it's hard to relax when you've lost your house and are sleeping at friends' places or, sometimes, in the front seat.
The oil gusher is dead, but the mental trauma it caused along the Gulf of Mexico coast is still very much alive.
"I'm a strong person and always have been, but I'm almost to the breaking point," says Carruth, whose hairstyling business dried up after tourists stopped coming to the beach and locals cut back on nonessentials such as haircuts. All but broke, Carruth packed her belongings into her truck and a storage shed and now depends on friends for shelter.
Carruth's anguish is part of a common but little talked about consequence of the summer of oil: people overcome by stress and worry, who are having a hard time navigating a world that seems so different from the one they knew before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, sending waves of crude and tar balls toward the coast.
Surveys show that in some areas badly affected by the oil, more than 40 percent of those seeking mental-health help say they are having problems because of the spill.
The oil spill followed waves of hard luck for the region, including hurricanes and recession. Experts say it's impossible to determine how much of the current mental health downturn could have roots in other ordeals.
But a study conducted over the summer in 13 counties and parishes with a total population of 1.9 million found that 13 percent of coastal adults from Louisiana to Florida suffered probable serious mental illnesses after the spill, although it wasn't clear exactly how many problems were directly related to oil.
The level of mental illness was similar to that seen six months after Hurricane Katrina decimated the coast five years ago, and experts aren't yet seeing improvement in mental health nearly six months after the oil crisis began. Before Katrina, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health found only 6 percent of area residents with likely mental illnesses.
"From the types of patients we are seeing in our emergency departments, clinics and hospitals, the problems are persisting," said William Pinsky of the New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System, which conducted the random telephone survey of 406 people in four states.
Sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, anger, substance abuse and domestic violence are among the most common problems reported by mental health agencies.
BP has provided $52 million for mental health care in the gulf region, with $15 million going to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals; $12 million each to the states of Alabama and Mississippi; $3 million to Florida; and $10 million to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Even though the oil stopped flowing in July and the BP well was finally killed last month, some officials say the toll on mental health may get worse as the financial strains of summer persist into the fall.
"It's like a virus that's spreading," said Tonya Fistein, one of four counselors hired by AltaPointe Health Systems specifically to help people deal emotionally with the spill in Bayou La Batre, a tiny Alabama fishing community hard hit by the disaster.
Steve Barrileaux, a psychologist at the Gulfport center, said some of the problems leading to mental health issues are obvious, such as the loss of work by a person who rented chairs on the beach. Others are more subtle.
Many people are worried deeply about the environment, for instance, or lament the lost moments they would have spent fishing recreationally with loved ones. Others are still afraid to eat seafood, even on the coast where livelihoods depend on it.
"What's scary is the long-term damage that can be done, and we just don't know about that," Barrileaux said.
Kim Thai, a single mother of four who worked as a sorter on a shrimp boat before oil began pouring into the gulf, now lives on BP claim money. She said she used to earn about $4,000 a month, but her BP claims payments have totaled only $10,000 for six months, or less than $1,700 monthly.
AltaPointe's clinic is seeing twice as many new patients as in 2009, an increase it blames on the spill. In Gulfport, Miss., 42 percent of the patients surveyed at the Gulf Coast Mental Health Center said they were sad or depressed because of the spill.
"I spend a lot of time thinking now when I can go to work, how I can hold this family together," said Thai, of Bayou La Batre. "I worry about my kids seeing me this way and them getting sad or it affecting their schoolwork."
Chanthy Prak also frets constantly about how to make ends meet in the post-spill world.
Prak worked in crab houses around Bayou La Batre before the oil hit. She and her husband, another seafood worker displaced by the spill, have received only $5,000 in claims payments since May to support them and their seven children.
"I worry. There's money going out but no money coming in," said the Cambodia native.
In some areas, higher rates of mental problems appear to have little to do with the oil.
At Lakeview Center, which provides mental health services in Pensacola, Fla., calls have increased to a crisis intervention line compared with 2009, but relatively few people have mentioned the oil spill as the reason they need help, said spokeswoman Karen Smith. Psychologists believe the uptick is most likely linked to the recession, she said.
More oil came ashore just to the west of Pensacola in Baldwin County, Ala., however, and a survey conducted for the state by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found significant mental health problems that people blamed on the spill.
Twenty-three percent of households in the area reported having at least one person who blamed sleep troubles on the spill, and 11 percent had at least one person with appetite loss. Perhaps most tellingly, 32 percent reported a decrease in income linked to the oil spill, which could lead to additional strain, said Charles Woernle, the state epidemiologist with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Officials along the Gulf Coast worry that many of the hardest-hit groups - shrimpers, Asian seafood workers and low-wage tourism employees - won't seek help for mental problems because of cultural taboos.
At AltaPointe, officials hope to use a share of the BP money to pay for additional oil-spill counselors.
Tejuania Nelson, who runs a day-care center in fishing-dependent Grand Bay, Ala., said preschoolers whose parents were left jobless because of the spill are lashing out in unsettling ways.
"They're throwing desks, kicking chairs," she said. "It's sad. With this, people do not have hope. They cannot see a better time."
Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action
Environmentally concerned evangelicals, including megachurch pastors, Christian college presidents, and theologians, announced their support February 8 for a major effort to combat global warming.
During a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington organized by the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), a new coalition called the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) released a statement signed by more than 85 evangelical leaders.
The statement, Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action, says "human-induced climate change is real," and calls on the U.S. government to pass legislation establishing limits on carbon dioxide emissions—widely believed to be the primary cause of human-induced global warming.
"Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors," the statement reads. "Christians must care about climate change, because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God's world, and any damage that we do to God's world is an offense against God himself."
Organizer Jim Ball, executive director of EEN, the group known for its 2002 "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign, stressed the importance of the statement's theological message.
"This is not a political statement being made," Ball told CT. "We are trying to be faithful to the lordship of Christ. It's my commitment to Christ that's driving me. He's said: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Global warming is going to affect millions in this century, and we feel we just can't stand by. We have to do something about it."
Among the signatories: bestselling Purpose-Driven Life author and pastor Rick Warren, World Vision president Rich Stearns, Salvation Army national commander Todd Bassett, Christianity Today editor David Neff and executive editor Timothy George, Wheaton College president Duane Litfin, and former National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) president Leith Anderson.
Litfin told CT that some evangelicals have "probably had some bind spots" in responding to environmental issues such as global warming. He said he hoped his involvement would "raise the profile of this issue within the evangelical world."
"I just want to see us more carefully trying to think through: What are the Christian's responsibilities to God's creation? I'm not sure we've fulfilled that stewardship very well, as a nation or as individuals. We can do a better job."
The effort involves a "close to half a million-dollar" ad and publicity campaign beginning with full-page ads in Roll Call and The New York Times on February 9, Ball said. The campaign will follow with a tv spot on Fox News, radio spots on Salem Radio Network, and an ad in Christianity Today.
Ball said the group is also planning tv ads on local channels "targeting some specific, traditional states" such as Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Dakota—"areas where we know there is good evangelical interest and concern," in order to further boost support for global warming legislation.
Funding for the ad campaign comes from a $500,000 grant the group recently received from the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Ball told CT. During the press conference Ball said charitable groups such as the Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Pew Charitable Trusts have also contributed.
Evangelical Climate Initiative supporters kicked off the day with a breakfast meeting with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. Last year Lieberman and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cosponsored a bill designed to create a "cap and trade" system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That bill died in the Senate.
While not endorsing a specific bill, the statement calls for federal legislation that would establish emission limits and require "sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost effective, market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program." Ball said he was encouraged by a nonbinding resolution that passed the Senate last year affirming this approach, but "the House is a different situation" and "a good place for evangelicals to make a difference."
Not All on Board
Noticeably absent from the group of prominent evangelical supporters are James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries, and NAE president Ted Haggard and vice president for governmental affairs Rich Cizik.
Cizik originally signed the statement, but said his name was withdrawn "to display an accommodating spirit to those who don't yet accept the science on the severity of the problem."
Last month Dobson, Colson, and 20 other evangelical leaders, including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote Haggard urging the NAE not to adopt "any official position on the issue of climate change," due to disagreement among evangelicals over "the cause, severity, and solutions to the global warming issue."
Both Ball and Cizik emphasized that the NAE never planned on adopting ECI's statement on global warming. Despite Haggard and Cizik's absence, 34 signers are members of the NAE's board or executive committee, and another 50 Christian organization heads also have ties to the group, according to a knowledgeable source.
Still, many evangelicals remain skeptical of claims on the extent of global warming.
"The evidence is really much shakier than people would tend to see," said James Sherk, an economist and fellow with the Evangel Society, who writes frequently on the global warming debate. The group offers scholarly critiques on current events from an evangelical perspective.
Sherk said the ECI claim that "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change" is "a lot of hype."
"I believe the science on that tends to be more agenda driven," Sherk said. He pointed out that mineral expert and statistician Steve McIntyre of climateaudit.org and economist and climate author Ross McKitrick have challenged the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), cited by ECI.
The problem, Sherk said, is "most of the steps they want to take to combat global warming will inflict tremendous economic damage and do very little to affect climate change. … We have a responsibility to care for the earth, but also have a responsibility to care for poor, and we shouldn't implement policies that would just casually destroy the hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth that could be put to use feeding the poor, aiding the homeless, and providing people with jobs."
An October 2005 poll conducted by Ellison Research and paid for by EEN revealed that about 750 of 1,000 surveyed born-again or evangelical Protestant Christians support hallmark environmental issues like reducing global warming or protecting wilderness areas from development. About 250 say they support these issues strongly. A slight majority of evangelicals, 54 percent, said they believe Christian faith should generally encourage people to support environmental issues.
Ellison Research president Ron Sellers said he was surprised that even 49 percent of politically conservative evangelicals say "global warming is a long-term problem, we are causing the problem today, so we must begin addressing the issue immediately." Sellers also said 44 percent of politically conservative evangelicals would support taking steps now, even at a high economic cost, assuming "that global warming/climate change is occurring, is mainly caused by human actions, and poses a significant threat within your lifetime."
"And that's before any of their leaders have come out and said it's a serious problem," Ball said. "Once evangelicals are convinced this is happening, the other numbers are going to shoot right up."