Mark Tercek: The Oil Spill and the Conservancy’s Response

Written by
Published on May 1st, 2010  |  Discuss This Article  

Mark Tercek is president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy.

As the slick from last week’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill reaches shore, it’s difficult to fathom the tragedy facing both people who live along the U.S. Gulf Coast and the nature upon which they rely.

The 11 lives lost in the oil well explosion were priceless, and thousands may lose their livelihoods as the oil damages shellfish industries along the coast. And the nature and ecology we work so hard to protect may suffer severe and irreparable damages — we do not know yet the extent of those impacts, but we will use our science to assess and learn.

The Nature Conservancy has had a longstanding presence in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other Gulf states. We continue to have staff members who live along the Gulf and work every day on conservation there.

We also have tremendous conservation science expertise in the region. Each of our Gulf state programs has spent many years protecting critical lands around the Gulf as habitat for fish and wildlife. Most of our recent efforts in the region center on the restoration of oyster reefs, coastal wetlands and barrier islands as well as in assessing the biological importance of coastal waters. Many if not all of these efforts are gravely threatened today.

Now is not the time for ranting. The Conservancy is acting to help those on the front lines of response. We have placed our shellfish restoration team at the disposal of the U.S. Department of Interior and other federal agencies — to help prevent impacts where we can, assess damage where it’s occurring and figure out how to restore these natural areas to the extent possible.

We’re also assessing where and how we can put our staff, volunteers, brainpower, data and equipment to good use, particularly in defending shellfish restoration projects from the worst effects of the disaster.

This afternoon, I also sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, saying that I support the Obama administration’s decision to halt leasing of sites for new oil and gas exploration and drilling until a thorough evaluation of this incident has been completed.

The Conservancy is also weighing in with similar comments on a particular new drilling project off the coast of Virginia. This disaster has shaken many people’s assumptions about oil drilling, bringing to light new risks that must be taken into account in evaluating the future of oil exploration and impact on natural systems.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress and let our members know where and how they can be part of the effort. Like you, I’ll be tracking this closely, hoping that the worst impacts can still be avoided, and working hard to ensure the Conservancy is doing everything it can to contribute to an effective response.

(Image credit: ingridtaylar/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,




81 Responses to “Mark Tercek: The Oil Spill and the Conservancy’s Response”

  1. Aubrey says:

    Thank you for your hard work. I just made a donation to try to help.

  2. If one could get a 1 or 2 week leave from work, and pay for their own airfare, is there an organization where one can come down and help clean the birds?

  3. Luisa Lamarche says:

    It is so very sad to see the wild life be a victim of man’s mistakes, I am most concern with this situation, what can I do to help besides contributions.
    Luisa Lamarche

  4. Rachel, we will be looking into this and will have information.

  5. Mary Beth says:

    We have a small motor home and may be able to go where needed on the gulf coast, if you need help.

  6. Sonya Light says:

    I have volunteered 2 winter years at the Nature Conservancy Wildlife Rehab in Naples Florida, working mostly with birds, i.e., pelicans, herons and ibis…helping tube, cleaning cages. I have the time and energy to volunteer in a location where my skills could be utilized.

    Please let me know as well as Rachel.

    Thank you and carry on your great work.

  7. Kaytlyn Burrows says:

    I would also like some information on volunteer opportunities. This disaster breaks my heart and I want to help out in any way I can.

  8. Wilma Jansen Pierce says:

    I am sick about this terrible oil spill. Now how on earth do you stop its flow? And how do we take care of all the animals, their habitat how do we get rid of the oil which has reached land.
    The first thing I did was sell my shares in BP, not wanting anything to do with a company that is so careless.
    I am a retired teacher, 80 years old, and taught Biology and Earth science my whole teaching career. How could BP be so careless. The problem seems humongous but I know that you solve any problem in steps or phases. Please let me know your plan and how may I help?

  9. Frank says:

    I’d like to second the request for some info on potential charities one could donate to help out with the inevitably huge work required to mitigate this disaster. I live in Massachusetts so can’t exactly drive on down to scrub birds, but I know a lot of people who’d like to help out up here all the same.

  10. Herman says:

    Human life priceless? Surely, you jest.

    “We … have tremendous conservation science expertise in the region. … Many if not all of these efforts are gravely threatened today.”

    Thanks in no small way to the negligence of humans.

  11. Reagan De Leon says:

    Well, I’m glad to hear that Obama has put at stop, even if temporary, to the leasing of new oil drilling sites pending further investigation… That’s a small step in the right direction.

    As tragic as all of this is, let’s hope that much good will come from this… A lesson of what NOT to do. Because sometimes, we humans have to learn the hard way…

    I would love to help and volunteer, but I’m a slave to my paycheck and can’t afford the time off or the ticket to come and help… And I’m waaaayyy over here in Hawaii. Maybe there’s something locally I can do here? Suggestions?

  12. Carla T says:

    I want to Thank you, Nature Conservancy for all that you do. This oil spill is the worst thing to happen in quite some time and it sickens me. I want to do what I can – which seems like nothing. I would like to force all the BP executives, the secretary’s and the shareholders out to the shore to mop up oil and wash the birds. They should do it without pay and the employees should be paid by BP to help clean up. In fact it would be better if BP just funded the whole clean up in full. Sorry … my anger at this situation gets the best of me.

  13. [...] the end I opted to give to The Nature Conservancy because they were running a campaign focused on the recent Gulf oil spill. Their donation process was fairly standard – with a nice post-donation page suggesting what [...]

  14. Erika M Oberst says:

    About 20 years ago, a freighter hit the Skywaybridge in St Petersburg, Fla. compared to what happened now it was “Nothing”, however a lot of wildlife and shore birds were affected and my Veterinarian, Dr. Edington and staff we all went out to rescue and “clean off” the birds.
    But this time this is devastating -threatening the coastal wildlife habitat, the beaches,the plankton and larvae and fish eggs and grasses, critical to marine life, all this never should have happened – oildrilling near our precious coast.
    Hopefully there will be a halt for futue oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Thank you Nature Conservancy for all the effort.
    Erika M. Oberst

    Thank you Nature Conservany with

  15. Donna says:

    Will you establish a method of donation, similar to the Red Cross, for donations to be made via text and billed to our cell phone accounts?

  16. Cindy says:

    There is one action we can take. We can all pray (to our own personal God/ Higher Power). If we would begin May 2nd, praying 4 times a day. Central Standard Time at 9:00am, 12:00pm, 3:00pm, & 6:00pm. Just try it! Ask for a miracle, a solution to this mess; for the Gulf Coast, a solution for the oil well still spewing oil into the ocean, a miracle for the creatures and the lives affected. If you miss one time catch the next time. Whatever is out there can hear us. Just try it! Get others to pray. What else can I do besides blog and @#$%.I can’t fix it.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The Gulf oil spill is a catastrophe and let it be used as a lesson in history that offshore drilling policies may need contingency plans put in place for emergencies and outbreaks of this nature and scale.

    I can only convey my support in saying that I as a caring person of nature wish the Obama administration and its people surrounding the Gulf states all the best in rescue and restoration progress.

    Concerned nature friend.

  18. Kerry P. says:

    Question for anyone, are there ships equipped with the mechanics and technology that can pass back and forth on the leading edge of the floating oil to extract it from the ocean and then dock somewhere to deposit the cargo, say, in Houston? I understand that dedicated ships for this purpose would not be business feasible but retrofitted super tankers might work. Once their services are not needed in an emergency then they can go back to their normal routine. Can’t oil be sucked up and separated from the water for proper disposal? Thanks for your comments. Kerry P.

  19. Catherine Hartman says:

    I have contacted Cincinnati Nature Center to see if there is interest and availability of people to come down and help. Please let me know if you would like a team to volunteer. We have a lot of members who are birders and some with experience in handling birds.

  20. I just did my annual Nature Workshop at Cape May, NJ yesterday to help people love themselves enough to take proper care of Mother Earth. As a holistic psychologist, nature is my co-therapist and girl, do we rock! I know she will survive, our survival is the one in question.

    Please continue your wonderful work, I am proud to be a member. I am doing what I can to help you wake up people to how their actions, votes and behavior affects nature. We need strong leadership that does not go astray.

  21. aklein says:

    Check out the Audubon Action Center. They are collecting info for a database of interested volunteers.

    http://www.audubonaction.org/site/Survey?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=3400

  22. Meredith says:

    Okay at the risk of sounding ridiculous, but nothing ventured nothing gained. Oil is floating on the surface. Apart from skimming/buning they need something that would soak up and contain the oil. Now here is the thing how about something like the Shamwow or those super soaker type sponges it soak the oil first onthe surface and continue to float. Then they would need to corral them and collect and dispose. They would need millions of them or larger thicker versions. They could use this along the booms too. Now I don’t think their should be any drilling without absoulte failsafe methods in place this is a crime and could end up being the largest enviornmental disaster on earth. Then this is a continuous flow how much oil is in this well. I fear for all the creatures and sealife and plants in the Gulf and the wetlands. pray!

  23. David J. says:

    Who knows how endangered the sea turtles are in this situation? Are any turtle species in the affected area or expected to begin egg laying on the soon-to-be-affected beaches soon?

    What can we do to help them?

  24. Trixia says:

    So so sad another big human mistake we seem hopeless this human race…oil for life

  25. Mbyr says:

    What did they spray on the oil to supposedly make it dissipate?

  26. Adrienne says:

    I hate that human beings have done yet one more destructive thing to harm wildlife and wetlands. I feel so sad for the marine life and for the nesting birds. If the birds are scared away (as they plan), then the eggs and hatchlings will be abandoned. We can’t keep playing around with nature like this and get away with it. We’ll pay a price for it. Why can’t (greedy) people have compassionate hearts? The creatures and critters are so innocent and we can hurt them so badly. The birds have just returned from migration and are stressed out already. Goodness knows what this will do to them or how this catastrophe will play out in the future. What will it take for us to learn? Adrienne

  27. Adrienne says:

    Thank you aklein for posting the address of the Audubon Action Center. I signed up to volunteer, signed the letter to the Secretary of the Interior, and sent the letter to many interested friends who will undoubtedly sign it, too. Adrienne

  28. PHD Girl says:

    I would like to fly down on my own dime and help anyway I can. I can take the time off of work. I am a healthcare professional with life support and first aid certification. Please let me know who to contact.

  29. maryann says:

    I’m glad to see ways to help are getting posted here. I especially like the idea that BP have their workforce get out there and clean it up. That would drive the lesson home in the oil industry where it belongs. And droves of volunteers will be there…because there are good caring people in this world. And yes, lets pray that the higher consciousness might someday soon even seep into the cranial cavities of the greedy and the negligent. Until then, would someone please rename our species….we are definitely not Homo sapiens!

  30. David Zoffer says:

    It’s great to see people rushing to the cause. I look forward to seeing this disaster cleaned up. And immediately thereafter, I want to see legislation that minimizes/removes the chances of this happening again by improving the inspection process.

  31. Hands, feet and hearts on the ground! Let’s see the Conservancy funneling/coordinating volunteers!

  32. Tracey says:

    I’m so grateful there is an organization like this to mitigate these disasterous events. Please let me know about any volunteer opportunities to help this cause. I too can take a couple weeks off work to help clean up the environment or any type of administration, organization type help needed in the area.

  33. Molly Lay says:

    Add me to the list of those looking for volunteer opportunities…I have a great group of friends who are willing, too. Until all potential events leading to disaster are addressed and plans A, B, C, and D are tested and implemented at all platforms, no more drilling.

  34. Sandy Kasper says:

    I want to help with the cleanup, please tell me who to contact-thanks!

  35. Sunny Quinn says:

    I, as all of you, am sickened by this event. I have the time to fly to anywhere to volunteer to clean birds, which is a very tedious task to say the least…and it’ll take many skilled hands to accomplish this. I’ve signed up with the Audubon Society, but why are we sitting here day after day just waiting?! They don’t want untrained people handling the wildlife, understandably…but why aren’t training sessions happening NOW all over the U.S. so that we can be deployed to the affected areas and get set up BEFORE the birds start dying? I’ve looked everywhere for crash training and the only place I’ve found is in California. I live in Florida. Doesn’t make a lotta sense to me. Thousands of us willing to help could have been trained by now to be ready to start taking shifts along the coast. Why does this kind of thing take so long?! This is like Katrina all over again. C’mon guys! Help get us trained so we can do our part to help these doomed birds and turtles! Please!

  36. Nate says:

    Would it be too much to ask to have a little disclosure of The Nature Conservancy’s “partnership” with BP?

    Not the time to rant, indeed. Especially when a little righteous anger, or at the very least calling out the perpetrators, might hurt the bottom line…

  37. Dave Connell says:

    Hi Nate,
    My name is Dave Connell, I’m an employee with the Conservancy and I’d like to address your concerns about our relationship with BP. First and foremost to say that we do not have a formal partnership with BP, but we have worked with them in the past. So here is the basic rundown of that activity:

    The Nature Conservancy has worked with BP on several projects dealing with energy siting in Western states. We have not worked with the company on any offshore drilling activities.

    About 20 energy and environmental groups, including The Nature Conservancy, BP Wind Energy, the Sierra Club and Audubon, together have formed the American Wind and Wildlife Institute, which works to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat through the timely and responsible development and sighting of wind energy facilities.

    Using a science-based planning approach we developed, the Conservancy is working with BP and state and federal agencies in Colorado and Wyoming to prevent and mitigate the environmental impacts of natural gas extraction. In these projects, we bring to the table our scientific and conservation planning expertise. BP provides some of the funding to pay for data collection and analysis, which is peer-reviewed and publicly available. In Wyoming, our data is being used to help direct $24.5 million in mitigation funding energy companies pay into a multi-agency government fund. Money from this fund is being used to protect over 80,000 acres and improve management for more than 200,000 acres.

    We work with BP and state and federal agencies on energy sighting issues because energy development is taking place or being planned for areas we want to see conserved. Our goal is to make sure exploration and drilling operations or wind farm sighting is done in a way that has minimal impact on nature. We do this work because poorly planned and executed energy development can harm important wildlife habitat. After careful analysis, we have made the judgment that we gain far more by trying to influence energy development decisions today rather than focusing solely on restoration tomorrow.

    Our ultimate goal is to move to a clean energy future, but even when that future becomes a reality we will need to consider the environmental impact of these facilities.

    Over the last 30+ years, BP and its foundation have donated $9.6 $9.9 million to the Conservancy, including a $3 million piece of land in Virginia slated to be transferred to the state as a state wildlife management area. To put that in perspective: in 2009 alone, the Conservancy’s total support and revenue was $540M dollars.

  38. Debbie Mincey says:

    My family and I would like to volunteer to help clean animals affected by the oil spill. We can get ourselves to wherever we are needed. How do we get information on that?

  39. Anonymous says:

    Many folks have asked about volunteering opportunities – I came across this from one of the local sites:
    “The Red Cross is asking for volunteers to help clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re interested in volunteering in Bay County for the oil spill, you can e-mail your name, phone number, and e-mail address to: oilspill@redcrosscpc.org

  40. Susanne says:

    Volunteers to help protect wildlife from the oil spill may sign up by calling 1-866-448-5816.

    A Web site has been established where photos, press releases and fact sheets are available at http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.

    Also see this website from USFWS:
    http://www.fws.gov/news/NewsReleases/showNews.cfm?newsId=564928C2-BCD7-CCE9-D48DCBF527DEC421

  41. Nate says:

    Dave,

    Thanks for your response. I understand the need for non-profit organizations that do good work to find money wherever they can. Bu I do have to say that I wonder whether this incidence isn’t a net loss for the environmental movement.

    BP’s donations to TNC ultimately pale in comparison to the amount of money they spend (and have spent leading up to this disaster) on lobbying for deregulation of safety and environmental laws that are in place to prevent this sort of catastrophe. Sure it makes them look like they care when they go in with TNC on clean energy initiatives, but it’s just PR, pocket change meant to make BP look better when the real work is done in direct opposition to the well-intentioned partnership.

    All that is fine if it’s up front, but I worry that TNC would pull its punches, as it definitely appears Tercek is doing here, when faced with the real world impacts of BP’s environmentally devastating actions. And I have to say that frankly, I sort of resent that fact that Tercek takes such a milquetoast line with regards to BP’s culpability here.

    The time for ranting about BP’s lax standards in this particular incidence is indeed past. But if we can’t call a spade a spade going forward, how are we going to get out of this destructive cycle?

  42. Dave Connell says:

    Thanks again Nate,
    I just want to clarify that in the work we’re doing in the West, the Conservancy is not trying to cover up the damage BP is doing or provide them with a service — we’re trying to prevent or undo the damage to places our scientists say are ecologically important. As we’ve said, BP and other companies often target the places that are the most important to us. If we don’t get involved, we lose the chance to protect precious habitat, or at least minimize the damage done there.

    As for the tone of Mark’s letter, I think you make an interesting point. The fact is, you’ll find no shortage of outrage around here. We’ve got staff working around the clock to do what they can to protect major investments in shellfish restoration and coastal habitat protection. We all are outraged by what may be lost and how long it will take and how hard it will be to see damaged places and the species the support recover.

    As an organization, we are focused on getting things done on the ground and in the water. We’ve worked that way for 60 years. We feel there’s definitely a place for public outrage, and other environmental groups do that well. But there’s also a place for getting in on the ground and working with tough situations and trying to prevent or mitigate damage that — given our current energy system — will be done. We feel that’s our place and where we should be focused right now.

    Thanks again for commenting and engaging with us in this really important dialogue.

  43. Darren says:

    Dave,

    I was wondering if the $9.6 million cumulative donation by BP includes donations made by ARCO, AMOCO and SOHIO? BP merged with AMOCO in 1998, acquired ARCO in 2000 and SOHIO in 1987.

  44. Dave Connell says:

    Hey Darren,
    To be 100 percent honest, I am not sure. But, I will get together with our fundraising folks and find out. The numbers we pulled for the $9.6 mil. go back to the late 70s/early 80s. What I’ll do is ask them to run the names of the companies you list and I’ll get back to you.

    Thanks.

  45. Raphaelle says:

    Considering the Nature conservancy’s vast holdings on the VA Eastern Shore–from your own site:

    Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a narrow finger of land that separates the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. It is home to the longest expanse of coastal wilderness remaining on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

    The Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR) is comprised of 14 undeveloped barrier islands, thousands of acres of pristine salt marshes, vast tidal mudflats, shallow bays, and productive forested uplands. Situated at the lower end of the Delmarva Peninsula, VCR is one of the most important migratory bird stopover sites on Earth…Program Milestones and Achievements

    United Nations International Man and the Biosphere Reserve.
    U.S. Department of the Interior National Natural Landmark.
    National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research Site.
    Western Hemisphere International Shorebird Reserve Network Site.
    Protection of some 40,000 acres of barrier islands, marshes, and uplands…

    Your silence regarding the proposed drilling off the coast of Virginia, especially in light of the scope of the ecological disaster in the Gulf, is deafening.

    The wrong kind of green, indeed.

  46. Dave Connell says:

    Darren,
    Thanks again for your question, I’ve gotten some numbers back from our philanthropy staff and here’s what I can tell you about contributions from these companies. The numbers I cite here are rounded up to whole dollars:

    We received our first gift from ARCO on December 8, 1978 and the last gift from the company on February 2, 2002. Gifts from ARCO total $2.4 million, the vast majority of this came from their foundation. They include $1.15 million donations in the late 70s and early 80s for land acquisition in California and Kentucky. Other gifts have been made to our general membership fund, through employee matching gift programs and in support of a number of state programs, including Montana, Pennsylvania, Washington and Idaho.

    We received our first gift from AMOCO on May 5, 1982 and our last gift from them on February 23, 2004. The company has given $192,880 primarily to several state programs including South Carolina, Louisiana, Wyoming, Georgia, Colorado and the Virginia Coastal Reserve. Additional support includes $5,000 to the climate change program in 1999 and $15,000 to our Indonesian program in 2000.

    SOHIO gave their first gift on March 4, 1985 and their last gift on February 20, 1986. They gave $5,020, all of which went to the Texas state program.

    In total these companies have given the Conservancy $2.6 million. Looking at the records, some of this money appears to have come in following the mergers and acquisitions you cite. This may be because of the timing or the way the companies’ gifts were coded in our database.

    To put all these number in perspective: in Fiscal Year 2009, the Conservancy’s total dues and contributions were $416 million dollars. Of that, 5 percent of our dues and contributions came from businesses.

    Thanks again for your question.

  47. Jon Schwedler says:

    Hi Raphaelle,

    My name is Jon Schwedler, I’m an employee with The Nature Conservancy in Virginia and I’d like to address your concerns.

    Indeed The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve is a special place, one rightfully deserving the accolades you’ve noted. The Nature Conservancy has worked for more than 40 years to conserve the unique barrier islands and marshlands of the Eastern Shore, and the connection our staff has with this place is a very personal one (for example, our lead biologist at the Virginia Coast Reserve, Barry Truitt, has worked there for 34 years!)

    As such, we are closely monitoring both the Gulf oil slick’s possible effect on Virginia’s coast, and the conditions which made the oil spill possible in the first place. If portions of the Gulf oil slick reach Virginia’s shores, we will take every possible step to protect the barrier islands, marshlands, and tidal bays and the birds, shellfish, and other wildlife that depend on these irreplaceable habitats. Secondly, as this disaster has brought to light new risks that must be taken into account in evaluating the future of oil exploration and impact on natural systems, we fully support President Obama’s call for suspension of new offshore drilling, which includes proposed lease area 220 off Virginia’s coast. This was communicated last week in a letter from the Conservancy’s president, Mark Tercek, to the Department of Interior’s Secretary Salazar.

    If you are interested, you can also read a personal message here from Michael Lipford, director of The Nature Conservancy in Virginia, considering his response to the thought of a similar Gulf-type oil spill occurring off of Virginia’s coast.

  48. Michelle says:

    About one month ago, PBS had a program whereby a scientist was very successfully developing a natural, reusable material of some sort that totally absorbs oil & other pollutants from water!. After taking up the gunk, the material is picked up, the material is then cleaned and reused!! The properties of this absorbant material were extraordinary in other ways too. Did anyone else see this on PBS?

  49. Darren says:

    Dave, thanks for your thorough answer.

    To add to Nate’s earlier point: BP’s first-quarter (2010) replacement cost profit was $5,598 million!

  50. george olemaun says:

    Just a thought, if they use dry-ice as a way to slow the oil leak this will give them time to do the proper way to resolve the leak.

  51. Jon Schwedler says:

    Raphaelle-

    I’ve got a quick update for you regarding the proposed drilling off of Virginia’s coast. Late yesterday the Department of Interior suspended indefinitely plans for the proposed oil and gas lease sale off Virginia’s coast, which we were heartened to hear.

    This suspension is in line with a May 3 letter The Nature Conservancy in Virginia submitted to the Minerals Management Service. This letter requested a suspension of the Virginia lease sale and outlined the critical questions we believe an investigation of the Deepwater Horizon accident must answer before the federal government and the public can begin to analyze whether additional offshore oil and gas development has a place in our nation’s energy future.

  52. Tim says:

    The event was an A-C-C-I-D-E-N-T. Eleven people died. Some BP execs, on the rig, were injured. A critical safety valve, called a blow-out preventer, failed. This was a freak accident, people. It is without precedent to the best of my knowledge. The blowout occurred one MILE below the surface of the Gulf. The explosion/fire wrecked a nearly-new drilling rig that cost $500 million.
    The oil companies are as environmentally concerned as most of us. They are constantly defending themselves against litigation. There are fleets of lawyers making big bucks suing for almost every offshore injury, and defending these suits costs BP and the others lots and lots of money.

    BP has made voluntary multimillion dollar contributions to TNC, despite Dave Connell’s put-down with his implication of (only) $9.9 million contributed. BP didn’t have to give TNC anything; we should appreciate all voluntary contributions to TNC. You should also know the Federal government makes more profit from oil production through the gas tax than the oil companies do in producing their products.

    I have contributed to TNC for decades. But I am not an ambulance-chasing trial lawyer, and I am troubled by members’ attempts to paint BP as evil. There was no intent to cause harm. It was an accident.

  53. Ralph winter says:

    Is is safe to say that The Nature Conservancy has not come out against offshore drilling?

  54. Dave Connell says:

    Hey Ralph,
    Thanks for the question. My name is Dave Connell, I’m an employee for The Nature Conservancy and I can answer your question.

    You’re right that on a local level, there are some areas where the Conservancy has not weighed in on drilling decisions, but in Virginia, for example the Conservancy asked to suspend any new drilling leases.

    And on a national level, Nature Conservancy President and CEO Mark Tercek sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressing the Conservancy’s strong support for the Obama Administration’s decision to suspend action on further leasing until this incident is fully analyzed, until we better understand the risks of drilling and until there’s agreement on public policy and industry standards to prevent such disasters in the future.

    In general, our focus has been on addressing potential impacts of energy development in specific places. With the best available science, including that developed by our own experts, we identify the places where drilling is most risky for critical habitat. Based on that analysis, we make policy recommendations on specific projects or tracts. Sometimes we oppose drilling in areas that we consider too sensitive. In other cases we recommend safeguards and best practices to minimize and mitigate environmental harm.

    Thanks again for the question and the opportunity to address it.

  55. Darren says:

    Tim,

    I am afraid that blowout events are not unique (see http://www.oilrigdisasters.co.uk/). The most recent large blowout event, the Montara Oil Spill, leaked for 74 days last year and is estimated to have released between 1.2 to 9 million gallons (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montara_oil_spill).

    Regarding BP donations, I believe people want to be assured that TNC is not overly influenced by BP. One way to do this is to highlight the how small, proportionally to the overall total, BP’s contributions have been.

  56. Tim says:

    Thanks for the link, Darren. The wiki article says nothing about blow-out preventer(BOP) failure causing the Montara (in the Timor Sea) spill, or whether a BOP was in place on that project. The important thing, to me, is that BP was trying to insure against blowout in the Gulf; thus using the (apparently faulty) BOP.

  57. Darren says:

    Tim-You are correct about the Montara drilling not using a BOP. The NY Times has a good piece comparing the two spills ( http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/us/03montara.html ).

  58. Pancho says:

    I wish every newscast that airs a segment on the spill would end it with this phrase: “If this spill upsets you, make a personal commitment to reduce the amount of gasoline you use.”

    We can ban all offshore drilling, but that only means more tankers from Nigeria or Venezuela will be coming here. That will increase the likelihood of a tanker accident in the gulf.

    The best long-term solution is to use less oil. Although well-intentioned, don’t fly or drive across the country to volunteer for a few days of clean-up work if it makes more sense to donate those travel costs to the TNC instead. They can utilize the money most efficiently, and you won’t increase your oil consumption.

  59. Pat Hoekstra says:

    In response to Tim (it was an accident), I do not agree. This so-called accident is the result of cascading human error avoidable mechanical failures, and regulatory malfeasance. It is so tragic that 11 people died, as were the 29 deaths in Massey’s coal mine “accident.” This is the end-product of the politics of laissez-faire government oversight of corporate resource extraction operations. Yes mtion by the mining and drilling are inherently dangerous. This should be cause for more oversight, not self-regulated HS&E programs for the world’s most profitable corporations.
    Time is monrey and cutting corners in their view, is highly profitable. The risk of fines and workers’ compensation was low for BP and Massey, so AS A MATTER OF POLICY, workers end up choosing bbetween working under unsafe conditions and keeping their jobs, or losing their jobs and livelihood.
    Here is a list of events that created the uncontrolled oil geyser, that is threatening to turn the entire Gulf of Mexico into a dead zone. Any reasonable human being should be very angry that the dead will be blamed for these events, fully knowing that the pressure of performing unsafe acts in big corporate operations is tragic and destructive on multiple levels, and could led us to an extinction event if left unchecked.
    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2010/05/guest-post-discussion-of-congressional-hearings-on-deepwater-horizon.html
    By Glenn Stehle
    Here’s what came out in the congressional hearing:

    1) This was a problematic well that had experienced chronic pressure control problems (Scalise questioning)
    2) Following cementing of the production liner (in oilfield jargon, a liner = casing that doesn’t extend to the surface), no log was ran to confirm the integrity of the cement job (DeGette questioning)
    3) Before displacing the drilling mud from the riser, there were two tests that were performed. One is a positive test that tests the integrity of the liner (casing). The other is a negative test that tests the integrity of the casing hanger-seal assembly. The second test failed. (Waxman questioning)
    4) When the negative test failed, the written well prognosis required that rig personnel not proceed until contacting BP’s office in Houston (Waxman questioning)
    5) The decision was made to proceed with well abandonment despite the failed negative test, and the crew proceeded to displace the mud in the riser with seawater.
    6) There was a radio transmitter on the rig that sent various real-time parameters back to Houston which were recorded on a chart. Two minutes before the transmitter went dead, the standpipe pressure increased suddenly from 500 psi to 3500 psi. (Braley questioning)

  60. Catherine says:

    PLEASE SEE the url Posted-link to a short video demo of using HAY to absorb OIL. This method would be all natural, safe to use on and off shore. PLEASE TEST IT !

  61. Jim says:

    Sad to learn of Nature Conservancy’s close relationship with BP. Maybe it believed the spin “beyond petroleum”? Has the NC lost its core conservation ethic? As a life-long environmentalist, I will now search for those organizations that don’t dance with the devil.

    It’s time to speak up for ending fossil-fuel dependence and ending relationships with special interests that are screwing the planet.

  62. Cindy D. says:

    Dear Mr. Tercek:

    If now is not the time for ranting, then when? As another poster has mentioned, this disaster was not an ‘accident’ so much as the *result* of BP’s negligence and greed. Now I learn that The Nature Conservancy has ties with this reckless, heedless oil company that has lied about the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf; used dispersants that may be even more toxic than the oil because they own the company that makes it; failed to meet deadline after deadline to do what they promise. Yet even in the face of this appalling track record, the NC continues to justify its relationship with BP; you’re like a bad politician who can’t admit when he’s done something wrong, apologize, and change course.

    You write, Mr. Tercek, that you “support the Obama administration’s decision to halt leasing of sites for new oil and gas exploration and drilling until a thorough evaluation of this incident has been completed.” Why would you support offshore drilling at all?! Why aren’t you fighting to put an end to it? Do the words Exxon Valdez mean nothing to you? There is no such thing as SAFE offshore drilling; it’s only a matter of time until another disaster happens.

    And why would the NC would be so greedy as to ask your members to donate money to clean up the mess in the Gulf? Why aren’t you demanding that your partner, BP, foot the bill? You also ask that your members volunteer their time; why don’t you insist that your buddies at BP *pay* your members to do that work? Just the billions of dollars in profits they made earlier in the year should cover it.

    I know everything I need to know about The Nature Conservancy’s ties to BP; that there are any ties at all is disappointing; that you take money from them is disgusting and wrong! The NC can dodge and justify all it wants, but you’ve lost my support and membership.

    Shame on you, Nature Conservancy! If this is how you are “Protecting nature. Preserving life” then I want no part of it!

  63. Cindy D., I’m Robert Lalasz, an employee of the Conservancy. I’ve responded to a similar comment you made elsewhere on our blog about donations to the Conservancy going to the cleanup of the Gulf oil spill.

    First, we are very sorry to lose your support — and, of course, the support of some of those who are commenting here tonight. There is no question that BP
    should foot the bill. In fact, it’s required by law, and the Conservancy has always fully supported that. In all likelihood, we will be among the thousands seeking restitution for costs we are now incurring for protecting coastal habitat and shellfish restoration sites from the BP oil spill.

    We are not asking supporters for money for clean-up. Clean-up costs are among the costs the company should pay for. We have been working to protect
    wildlife habitat in the Gulf for decades and have tens of millions of dollars invested in coastal habitat acquisitions and shellfish restoration projects. We will be there for decades to come, and we will have our work cut out for us restoring what the oil spill is at this very moment destroying. The help and support we are asking for is for our long-term restoration work.

    The Nature Conservancy has always been and always will be the pragmatic conservation organization that works with all sectors of society to protect ecologically important places around the world. To put it bluntly: We’ll never save our lands and waters by talking to ourselves. We’ll only get there if we try to influence entities, such as BP, whose decisions affect the very places we want to conserve. Our ultimate goal is a clean energy future where fossil fuels and their associated impacts are a thing of the past — and where we also consider the impacts of renewable energy on land and habitats. In the meantime, energy exploration and development is happening. It is a reality. We would do our conservation mission a disservice by not trying to get energy companies to conduct their development more responsibly. For instance, our Development by Design work in Wyoming, Colorado and Mongolia is a science-based framework that protects the most sensitive ecosystems from energy extraction development. We invite you to read about it and consider the consequences to nature if the Conservancy were not trying to intervene in these situations.

  64. Cindy D. says:

    No one is suggesting you talk to yourselves! How about the citizens and governments of the world? How about lobbying Washington to enact clean energy policies? If your partnership with BP is any example of how your “Development by Design” work may turn out, then I really don’t need to “consider the consequences.” Rather, I think it’s TNC that needs to consider the consequences and arrogance of thinking you have any influence on big oil, an industry that clearly doesn’t give a s__t about the environment.

  65. Cindy, the Conservancy certainly is involved in lobbying Washington for cleaner energy policies. And, as we’ve stated repeatedly, we have not done any work with BP on offshore drilling. Our Development by Design framework now applies to terrestrial projects in Colorado, Wyoming and Mongolia as well as other projects in Latin America.

  66. Tim says:

    If the economic ignorance and anti-energy business vitriol exhibited by many of the posters is representative of TNC supporters in general, I am very discouraged.
    The demand for absolute SAFETY is particularly discouraging. Nothing, nothing can be made absolutely and totally safe.

  67. Jean Cox says:

    Tuesday night I came across an oiled Northern Gannet on the beach in Gulf Shores, AL. Several people there called for help for hours..Called BP’s hotline to report oiled birds, National Wildlife and Fisheries Dpt, local law enforcement, Tri-State…. No one ever came out to help with the bird. After 3 hours I got tired…… of waiting. I have rehabilitation experience(not certified yet) But, cleaned the bird myself with the help of 2 others. All I could do was wash with Dawn de-oil and he was able to fly. But Im sure the bird needed more attention than this. No one called back to come help the bird untill 12 hours latter. I have filled out online volunteer forms with no response. Thousands of people have volunteered and have not been called back? Tri-State could save alot more birds if there were more people on the ground, more organization and quicker response times. What can be done to improve this? How can people actually help? What is the Nature COnservancy doing to help wildlife that is covered in oil? THere are so many people wanting to help and noone is being used. There are numerous conservation groups that have told me they are “on standby”!!!!! Why is everyone sitting around waiting for the go ahead when animals are suffering and dying.

  68. A 4th grade student, Alana G, wrote this heartfelt letter to me about the Gulf oil spill and its effect on sea turtles. I think you might be interested in reading and publicizing what young people think and feel about the oil spill’s threat to our environment.

    http://www.seymoursimon.com/index.php/blog/tags/tag/Oil+Spills

  69. Patti McAlpine says:

    I am devasted by what’s happening in the Gulf Coast and I too was wandering if there is way to hook up with your organization or another organization to volunteer if one is able to get a week to two weeks vacation from work.

    I manage and present RiverClassroom Env. education programs in Rhode Island on the Blackstone River, and many of the students have asked me about this oil spill and want to know if it can reach up here. When addressing this issue, I try to relate it back to healthy rivers mean healthy oceans and that in some instances Oil can get into rivers through storm water run off from cars and trucks. These students get it, and so do I. I walk to work whenever I can and when I can’t I try to make sure I make the best use of my time and as was suggested combine errands either on the way or on the way home from work. I have also become better acquainted with our public transportation.

  70. tomtmo says:

    Why are they trying to save the well?
    They should be saving the environment.

    I have a concern about the BP oil leak problem.
    How can they get away with trying to save there well? All the damage they are doing to the environment is obscene. Someone should make them just plug the well with cement. The use of mud is for blowout protection when they are going to use the well for oil production. No one is talking about just plugging the well. That thing they are using is just to save the well not stop the leek. Can you ask the people in charge why?

  71. My understanding is that BP is drilling a relief well to reduce pressure from the main well so they can pump in mud & concrete and kill the well. What I’ve heard is that they have no intention of using this well for oil once they get it capped. Has that changed?

    Also, I’m still curious if TNC still considers BP a reliable business partner, since so many of BP’s promises made before this disaster have proved to be empty words.

  72. Dave Connell says:

    Harold,
    My name is Dave Connell, I am an employee with The Nature Conservancy and I wanted to address your second question specifically. Unfortunately, I do not know the answer to your first question.

    As you can read throughout this blog – from the reports of our many scientists and conservationists on the ground around the Gulf Coast – the Conservancy is increasingly frustrated with the spill and BP’s inability to staunch the leak. We have made significant progress in protecting and restoring coastal areas in the Gulf over the years and that work is now severely threatened by the BP spill. We’re saddened and frustrated by that loss, but determined to be in the Gulf for as long as we need to be to both clean up the mess caused by the BP spill and restore the wetlands across the Gulf Coast.

    As we’ve said repeatedly, and as our CEO Mark Tercek said in his chat, we are continuing to re-evaluate BP as a corporation we engage with and are continuing to re-evaluate our strategies on offshore drilling and the oil and gas sectors.

    I would encourage you to continue to comment on this issue in this space and ask questions. We are listening to what is said here and using it to inform our decisions.

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to respond to your questions.

  73. Brenda Feris says:

    I am very interested in helping on the frontlines with cleaning & tranportation on rehab animals within the law. I have several skills & experience that I feel would be beneficial to helping the cause with the oil spill. Thanks for your service to wildlife.

  74. Frank Schwer says:

    Consider this proposal:
    Place a ring of weighted neoprene around a pipe /tube that extends down into the well casing and allow this weighted ring to descend under its own weight. The deeper it travels
    beneath the sea the heavier it will become due to extreme water pressure and will become a “stopper” when it meets the
    casing. In this manner you will not only be stopping the leak, but also be capturing the oil.

    Fabrication: weighted stopper might be a two layer configuration with a concave metal top over a neoprene/ rubber bottom. Concave top should be broad to maximize square inches subjected to the extreme water pressure.

  75. Frank Schwer says:

    P.S.
    I have not been a big fan of BP since I became informed that
    they were dumping waste product from their Whiting,IN refinery into Lake Michigan in 2007. (With the state of Indiana’s blessing.) Despite their words BP is not interested in protecting the environment and the carelessness shown in the gulf is the result of this.
    Additional thought: Members of the conservancy should all ban together and boycott the purchase of BP product.

  76. Kimberly Wacasey says:

    Want to know HOW TO VOLUNTEER AND WHO TO CONTACT!

    Thank You!

  77. Jenni Veal says:

    I am so grateful to know that the Nature Conservancy is on the front lines of this national environmental tragedy.

    I recently blogged about Volunteer Opportunities for the BP Oil Spill Recovery at http://www.YourOutdoorFamily.com. I will add The Nature Conservancy to my list. I stayed up all night researching ways to help – I think volunteering is one way for us to feel like we can DO something.

    However, most important is stopping the oil, which I still don’t have a handle on. I hope BP is consulting with The Nature Conservancy and its experts… I would like to know who is advising them at this point…

    Jenni Veal
    http://www.YourOutdoorFamily.com
    Chattanooga, Tenn.

  78. Sharon says:

    The first thing anyone should and can do is to stop referring to this catastrophe as a “spill.” Call it a gusher, an eruption, a disaster — anything that more accurately conveys the reality. Calling this a spill is like calling the conflict in Afghanistan a disagreement. And it lessens the moral responsibility for BP.

    Re: Comment from Tim
    May 30, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    >> The demand for absolute SAFETY is particularly discouraging. Nothing, nothing can be made absolutely and totally safe.<<

    Absolute safety for anything, anywhere is, of course, not possible. But in regard to this instance, Tim errs. BP, we now know, wantonly disregarded warnings from its own employees that there were safety problems aboard the Deepwater Horizon, and chose its bottom line rather than the safety of its employees — and the environment of the Gulf. MMS officials turned a blind eye to potential safety hazards before the drilling permit was even issued. Safety inspections were cursory at best — because they cause "down time" for wells. No, it couldn't have been made absolutely safe. But it could have been made safe enough that this blowout didn't have to happen.

  79. Altagracia says:

    It made me cry! This was awful!! Humans and thier selfishness! Very Cruel! Why do our animals, oceans, marine life have to suffer the consequences of the big Oil Companies?

  80. Young Tran says:

    I commend this fascinating blog. Today, in the light of recent Hungary’s toxic red sludge spill I urge everyone to look into the potential of another Hungary environmental catastrophe in Central Highlands of Vietnam. Please refer to this newly posted petition, gopetitio­n.com/peti­tion/40122­.html for more information.

    The Central Highlands of Vietnam, as its name implies, is located at the altitude of hundreds of meters above sea level, where it embraces over the livelihood of 14 million ethnic minorities and basin residents, the indigenous cultures, and the pristine, breathtaking natural environment.

    The world should not lean toward the development model, which is driven by the short-term profit returns for a group of investors. But we rather support the ecologically sustainable development model, where economic growth, community harmony, and the environmental protection can be achieved and sustained in the long run.

    It is our Earth. And it has become ever so clearly that any local environmental catastrophe could trigger a serious regional, if not global crisis.

    Please support the petition and kindly help circulate it among friends and/or via a social networking means (e.g., facebook, twitter) that you possibly can.

    Together, we can help protect our Earth and promote a sustainable, greener world – not only for ourselves, but for many generations yet to come. Thank you.

    Young Tran
    Oregon, USA

  81. Young Tran says:

    Sorry, there is a typo on the link that I previously posted; this is the correct one: gopetition.com/petition/40122.html. Thanks!

    Young Tran
    Oregon, USA

Leave a Reply

Subscribe Now

Get our monthly e-newsletter filled with eco-tips and info on the places you care about most.

Recent Popular Posts