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Another bad year for Kemp’s ridley turtles

This does not look good.

The nesting season for the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is ending with zero nests found on either Galveston Island or the Bolivar Peninsula for the first time in at least a decade, although the number rose for the entire coast.

The decline in nesting on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast comes as a recent study shows that the nest numbers for Texas’ official sea turtle, whose primary nesting grounds are in Texas and Mexico, are at less than one-tenth of their historic levels.

Only five Kemp’s ridley nests were found on the upper Texas coast – four at Surfside and one at Quintana Beach – during the nesting season that runs from April until the middle of July, although there are always a few late nesters.

“We’ve had some extremely high tides and a lot of flooding this year, and many times the ocean was right up to the base of the dune,” which could have discouraged turtles from digging nests, said Christopher Marshall, lead turtle researcher at Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Nesting numbers were up for the entire Texas Gulf Coast and at the main nesting grounds in Tamaulipas, Mexico, near the Texas border. But scientists and conservationists remain concerned that the increases are far below those prior to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

“We’ve got two years of increases, however it’s discouraging that we have not gotten back to the numbers we were at in 2009,” said Donna Shaver, chief of the division of sea turtle science and recovery at Padre Island National Seashore.

So far this season, 185 Kemp’s ridley nests have been found on the Texas Coast, said Shaver, who tallies every discovered nest and oversees a turtle egg incubation program on Padre Island. The real indicator of the health of the Kemp’s ridley is the number of nests at the main nesting grounds in Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas. The count this year is 17,000 nests, up from 14,000 last year but still far short of the record 22,000 in 2012. The record that year was barely higher than the 2009 number and far less than what scientists expected.

“It came up, but it didn’t come up anywhere close to what we hoped it would if it had grown at the same rate as in 2009 and it didn’t keep going,” said Thane Wibbles, a biologist at the University of Alabama. Wibbles said there should have been more than 30,000 nests in 2012.

“It’s still not back to its historical levels where we were seeing a 12 to 15 percent increase every year,” said Pat Burchfield, who heads the U.S. contingent of the Binational Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Project and is director of the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville.


Most scientists speculate that either the oil spill caused a temporary pause in Kemp’s ridley reproduction and that it will rebound, or that conditions in the Gulf have become inhospitable for the turtle’s historic population size, Wibbles said.

“It may be that the carrying capacity of the Gulf of Mexico may not be what it used to be,” Wibbles said. “I would say in five years if it hasn’t got on an exponential recovery trend then we have to look at the possibility that the Gulf of Mexico is not allowing them to come back.”

If the Gulf can’t support as many Kemp’s ridleys as it once did, he said, then the Gulf may be in trouble. Said Wibbles, “The ridley could be considered a metaphoric canary in the coal mine.”

See here for some background. I sure hope things start to look up, but it’s getting harder to feel optimistic. I don’t care how much that oil spill cost BP. It wasn’t enough.

BP settlement cash



The city of Houston, Harris County and Metro netted $23 million in compensation from BP for revenue they could not collect in the wake of the company’s 2010 Gulf oil spill, officials announced Thursday.

Houston will pocket about $12.2 million from the costliest environmental lawsuit in U.S. history to cover hotel and sales tax shortfalls. The Metropolitan Transit Authority will receive more than $9.2 million for lost sales tax revenue, and Harris County will get $2.1 million for lost hotel occupancy tax revenues, officials announced in a joint statement.

However, expenses for the case and fees for two outside lawyers who represented the city, county and Metro will carve off nearly 40 percent of those totals.

Nearby communities and government entities, including the city of Galveston, Jefferson County, the city of Beaumont, and Orange Port Authority also are among the 511 entities that said the spill caused an economic shortfall.

The payouts are part of the $18.7 billion that BP agreed to pay earlier this month for damages and penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon spill – the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.


Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Morman said they were satisfied with the settlement. Commissioners Court has not yet determined how the county will split the money.

“Frankly, I wish we would have gotten more, but certainly it was a worthwhile lawsuit,” Radack said.

Several commissioners received a total of 1,700 identical emails from BP employees, via a server in United Arab Emirates, urging them not to pursue legal action against the company, according to Soard at the County Attorney’s office.

County Judge Ed Emmett, who voted in Commissioners Court against seeking damages, said, “I thought it was a stretch to say that we lost so much revenue because people didn’t rent hotel rooms here because of the BP spill.”

“Am I glad the county won? Sure. Would we have been part of the lawsuit if it had been just up to me? Probably not.”

He said he was disappointed the county would only to realize $1.3 million after the lawyers took their cut. Commissioner R. Jack Cagle had also voted against entering the lawsuit, in his case because he thought the county attorney could handle the case.

As to whether it was appropriate to seek damages, Janice Evans, spokeswoman for the mayor, said, “We raised the same exact issues as more than 500 other governmental entities and all parties have agreed to this, as has the court, so we would not characterize it as opportunist.”

Whether the amount that these three entities will receive is “enough” is not one I can answer, nor can I answer it for the 500 others involved in the litigation, not to mention BP itself. It’s something, and I’m quite sure it will be put to good use.

Tar balls in Galveston

Let’s hope this is not the start of something bigger.

About a dozen tar balls that washed ashore on Crystal Beach were identified Monday as oil from the BP well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the first evidence that oil from the spill has reached the Texas coastline.

But it was unclear whether the oil from the blowout dropped off a passing ship or drifted nearly 400 miles.


An onslaught of tar balls on Galveston’s beaches would be disastrous for the island city’s tourism economy. Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski hoped the tar balls were a one-time occurrence.

“It is such a small amount that I’m waiting to see whether more comes or not the next few days before getting really upset,” Jaworski said.

Like I said, let’s hope this is all there is to it. Hair Balls and In the Pink have more.

This is why we call him “Smokey Joe”

You’ve probably seen it by now, but feast your eyes anyway on Rep. Joe Barton apologizing to BP for that mean ol’ government making them pay for their mess in the Gulf.

He’s since apologized for the apology, but given that he was basically parroting the Republican party line, it’s clear he meant what he said and said what he meant the first time. He’s really just sorry people got mad at him for it.

About that BP safety record, Governor…

In addition to his silly statement that the BP oil leak in the Gulf was an act of God, Governor Perry also made the curious claim that BP has “historically had a very good safety record from my perspective.” From most anybody else’s perspective, not so much. Texas Watch sent him a letter laying out BP’s long history of accidents, fatalities, and government sanctions. Check it out.

It may take an act of God for Rick Perry to admit he was wrong

Governor Perry is being questioned about his silly “act of God” comment regarding the BP oil leak in the Gulf, and he’s apparently a mite touchy about it. Look, we all know – clearly Perry does – that “act of God” is a legal term that would have enormous financial implications if it were true in this case. Even I have a hard time believing that Perry truly thought this was the case when he first said it. It’s much more likely that he was just trying to come up with some explanation that wasn’t politically dicey for his worldview, and in doing so said something silly. I’m as happy to pounce on him for it as the next guy, but if he’d just say that he misspoke and talk instead about how vital it is to try to figure out so that we might hopefully be able to prevent these catastrophes from happening again, I figure most people would just move on down the road. Seems to me that by continuing to insist that “act of God” means what he says it means, he’s prolonging the story and will ultimately make himself look like an even bigger idiot than usual. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m just having a hard time fathoming how he fails to recognize the position he’s in.

In the meantime, if you’d like to hear what someone who actually knows what he’s talking about has to say about the BP disaster, read this from Bill White. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Governor who can understand stuff like this and make sense of it?

Finally, for extra credit, read how so-called “small-government conservatives” suddenly love them some federal government in the aftermath of the BP disaster; the costs of oil compared to its greener competitors; the external costs and unaccounted for risks of oil; who’s on the hook for the costs of cleanup; and the Dick Cheney connection to this whole sorry mess. You knew there had to be one, right?

Perry blames God for oil leak

That sure is what this sounds like to me.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Monday offered a stern warning against halting oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of a massive oil leak, and he raised the question of whether the explosion was an “act of God.”

The Republican governor, speaking at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, warned against a “a knee-jerk reaction” to the spill and said the government doesn’t know what caused the leak, which took 11 lives and threatens the Gulf coast’s vast fishing industry.

“We don’t know what the event that has allowed for this massive oil to be released,” Perry said alongside several other governors on a panel Monday. “And until we know that, I hope we don’t see a knee-jerk reaction across this country that says we’re going to shut down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, because the cost to this country will be staggering.”

Perry questioned whether the spill was “just an act of God that occurred” and said that any “politically driven” decisions could put the U.S. in further economic peril.

“From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented,” Perry said.

I’m sure I know as much about this sort of thing as our Governor, but I don’t think it would ever occur to me to call a mechanical failure an act of God. I mean, as Juanita asks, does that mean that the explosion at the BP refinery in Texas City back in 2005 was an act of God, too? Honestly, I have no idea what he’s getting at here. The radical cleric Pat Robertson has claimed that Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti were acts of God; specifically, acts of God’s wrath against us for our sins. Would Perry care to venture a guess as to what God was punishing us for with this?