FSU professor challenges oil spill estimates before Congress

Florida State University oceanography professor Ian MacDonald during testimony before Congress on Thursday challenged federal estimates of the amount of oil spilled by BP into the Gulf of Mexico.

A federal science team earlier this month estimated that 205 million gallons of oil gushed from the BP’s Macondo well between April 20 and July 15. The team said 26 percent remained in the environment while another 25 percent had evaporated or been dissolved, another 25 percent had been collected or burned and 24 percent was dispersed either naturally or with chemicals.

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco told reporters that more than half the oil was “completely gone.” But critics say the report underestimates the damage caused by the spill to the Gulf of Mexico.

In his prepared remarks, MacDonald said the report is “misleading and raises more questions than it answers.” He said a pie chart that explains the report mixes different categories together and makes sweeping and largely unsupported arguments about the fate of oil in each category.

Earlier in the hearing, a federal official defended the report but said the background data and formulas used in creating the “oil budget” would not be released now. “We’re hoping to get it out within two months,” said Bill Lehr, a senior scientist NOAA.

But Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. and chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, said the public has a right to know right to know the information now.

“If your numbers are wrong, two months from now could be too late for the remedial recommendations that are made to the public,” Markey said.

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)