Cap on BP leak; gag on Gulf scientists

Greg Harman

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The gusher in the Gulf that led to one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history has gone quiet following three months of rushing crude from the sea floor. Whether that well stays silent depends on the results of the pressure test taking place today. If the well proves to be stable, we'll see crude being diverted to the surface until the relief well is finished. If problems are discovered, we may see the return of spew for a while yet.

But the legal battle over the spill is only just getting started.

For it's part, BP has been gearing up for the monumental court fight to come by busily buying up scientists across the Gulf to the tune of $100,000 a pop per year to keep details of the spill out of the public domain. According to the Mobile Press-Register, the company has been signing up researchers at a number of universities.

Noble South Alabamans weren't having it.

"We told them there was no way we would agree to any kind of restrictions on the data we collect. It was pretty clear we wouldn't be hearing from them again after that," said Bob Shipp, head of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama. "We didn't like the perception of the university representing BP in any fashion."

Reportedly some Aggies were:.

Scientists from Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and Texas A&M have reportedly accepted, according to academic officials. Scientists who study marine invertebrates, plankton, marsh environments, oceanography, sharks and other topics have been solicited.

The contract makes it clear that BP is seeking to add scientists to the legal team that will fight the Natural Resources Damage Assessment lawsuit that the federal government will bring as a result of the Gulf oil spill.

So not only have Texas beaches and estuaries dodged the oil-spill bullet, but professors at our public university will be allowed to line their pockets by sitting on potentially critical information that could assist those whose livelihoods have been stripped away by the spill.

Why is every child's shrill realization about “fairness” gonging in my head? Why can't I get any Aggies to pick up the damn phone as I seek confirmation on the news report?

Meanwhile, the Great Explainer is striking a more cautious tone than this morning's headlines.

Notice the line about "possibly countless new oil leaks in the sea floor." Yep. “Countless new oil leaks” would be bad.

So, I guess the message is: 1) don't get too giddy about this pause in Gulf fouling; and 2) step up to a full-court press for environmental justice over this behemoth. BP's attempt to own the science by paying off the scientists ... I'd call that playing for keeps.

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