When University Scientists Found Underwater Oil Plumes, the Government Said Shut Up, Don't Tell Anyone ... and Then Tried to Discredit Them

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As I've previously reported, a senior EPA policy analyst says that NOAA and the EPA have been "sock puppets" for BP.

NOAA has repeatedly denied the existence of underwater oil plumes (see this and this), calculated the spill to be only 5,000 barrels a day, and buried core data on the oil spill.

Now,
university scientists have revealed the NOAA used strong-arm tactics to
try to silence any information on underwater plumes. As the St.
Petersburg Times reports:

The
reaction that [the University of South Florida] announcement [of the
discovery of huge underwater plumes] received from the Coast Guard and
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal
agencies that sponsored their research:

 

Shut up.

 

"I got
lambasted by the Coast Guard and NOAA when we said there was undersea
oil," USF marine sciences dean William Hogarth said. Some officials even
told him to retract USF's public announcement, he said, comparing it
to being "beat up" by federal officials.

 

The USF scientists
weren't alone. Vernon Asper, an oceanographer at the University of
Southern Mississippi, was part of a similar effort that met with a
similar reaction. "We expected that NOAA would be pleased because we
found something very, very interesting," Asper said. "NOAA instead
responded by trying to discredit us. It was just a shock to us."

 

NOAA
Administrator Jane Lubchenco, in comments she made to reporters in
May, expressed strong skepticism about the existence of undersea oil
plumes — as did BP's then-CEO, Tony Hayward.

 

"She basically called us inept idiots," Asper said. "We took that very personally."

Lubchenco
confirmed Monday that her agency told USF and other academic
institutions involved in the study of undersea plumes that they should
hold off talking so openly about it. "What we asked for, was for people
to stop speculating before they had a chance to analyze what they were
finding," Lubchenco said. "We think that's in everybody's interest. …
We just wanted to try to make sure that we knew something before we
speculated about it."

 

"We had solid evidence, rock solid," Asper
said. "We weren't speculating." If he had to do it over again, he said,
he'd do it all exactly the same way, despite Lubchenco's ire.

 

***

 

USF's
first NOAA-sponsored voyage to take samples after Deepwater Horizon,
the one that turned up evidence of the undersea plumes, was designed to
gather evidence for use in an eventual court case against BP and other
oil companies involved in the disaster. At the end of the voyage, USF
turned its samples over to NOAA, expecting to get either a shared
analysis or the samples themselves back. So far, Hogarth said, they've
received neither.

 

NOAA's top oil spill scientist, Steve Murawski,
said Monday that he was "sure we will release the data" at some point.
However, he said, because NOAA has collected so many samples over the
past three months, when it comes to the samples from USF's trip in May,
"I'm not sure where they are."

A government
official named "Lubchenco" strong-arming scientists to tow the party
line, and a government agency "losing" samples instead of sharing
results with the scientists who had taken them.

Sounds like the Soviet Union, doesn't it?

Too bad it's America.