Dec. 17, 2010 06:03 PM
A new report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has some harsh criticism of the sand berms constructed off Louisiana's coast to block oil from moving onshore. A new report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has some harsh criticism of the sand berms constructed off Louisiana's coast to block oil from moving onshore. Six miles of sand berms, at a cost of $220 million, were constructed at the insistence of Gov. Bobby Jindal and other state political leaders who argued the berms were the most effective way to combat the spill. The report, titled "The Story of the Louisiana Berms Project", finds otherwise. It concludes:
Estimates vary, and no precise figures are available, but no estimates of how much oil the berms captured are much greater than 1,000 total barrels.315    In comparison, according to peer-reviewed government estimates released in November, burning, skimming, and chemical dispersion addressed a total of between 890,000 and 1.85 million barrels spilled from the Macondo well.316    To be sure, had the berms been constructed sooner and more extensively, had weather and other factors pushed more oil toward the Louisiana coast, had other response measures been less effective, and had the spill lasted longer, perhaps the berms would have trapped more oil. But not much more than 1,000 barrels, in the context of a spill in which nearly five million barrels of oil were released, and approximately four million barrels entered the ocean, is a miniscule amount by any measure


In addition, the study takes a critical look at the cost of the berms, which ate up $220 of the $293 million BP spent on oil response and removal for Louisiana. "BP's expenditure on berms is about three times greater than its expenditures for all other response and removal activities in Louisiana," the study reports. "The $220 million BP has spent on the berms to date, along with the additional $140 million BP has committed to the project, represents about one-third of the total amount BP has paid to the federal government and the states for oil response and removal in the Gulf of Mexico."

Much of the 45-page report focuses on how the berm project won approval in the first place. Though it faced widespread scrutiny from environmental and engineering groups, the project won approval after increased pressure from vocal state political leaders. The study finds that a May 28 meeting in Grand Isle between President Obama and other political leaders from states affected by the response, set in motion a chain of events that lead to the project's approval. "For the future," the report concludes, "the Commission may wish to recommend use of an independent process or group - perhaps separated from the National Incident Command - to provide decision-makers with a rigorous, scientific analysis of the effectiveness of large-scale and previously unstudied spill response measures like the Louisiana berms project."

BP has declined comment on the commission's findings. The Washington Post reports Jindal released a statement calling the new report "partisan revisionist history at taxpayer expense," and arguing that the claim "that the berms did not pass the commission's 'cost benefit analysis' is insulting to the thousands of people whose way of life depends on the health of our working coast."