Spin Damage

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While we're on the topic of things I've run across recently, allow me to observe that the fellow who wrote this is an idiot.

So maybe a week ago I happen upon one of these breathless "I can't believe nobody's reporting on ..." blog posts pointing to that article. Here's the setup:

BP Faces Huge Fines Related To Unreported Oil Spills in Alaska; Is ANWR Next?

...It was then, unbeknownst to the federal lawmakers who debated the merits of drilling in ANWR, that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation started to lay the groundwork to pursue civil charges against UK oil and gas behemoth BP and the corporationís drilling contractor for failing to report massive oil spills at its Prudhoe Bay operation, just 60 miles west from the pristine wilderness area that would be ravaged by the very same company in its bid to drill for oil should ANWR truly be opened to further development.

Truly horrible! Here's Congress debating whether to turn a wildlife refuge over to the wildcatters and all the while -- gasp! -- the evil Big Oil is covering up a Valdez in the making.

Or, well, no.

Here's what we're actually talking about:

Hamel filed a formal complaint in January with the EPA, claiming he had pictures showing a gusher spewing a brown substance in July 2003 and December 2004. An investigation by Alaskaís Department of Environmental Conservation determined that as much as 294 gallons of drilling mud, a substance that contains traces of crude oil, was spilled on two separate occasions when gas was sucked into wells, causing sprays of drilling muds and oil that shot up as high as 85 feet into the air.

Because both spills exceeded 55 gallons, BP and Nabors were obligated under a 2003 compliance agreement that BP signed with Alaska to immediately report the spills. But they didn't, said Leslie Pearson, the agency's spill prevention and emergency response manager.

You see the problem? If an ardent environmentalist such as myself gets down to the middle of this article and says "Oh, is that all?" then the article is exceptionally poorly written. From the intro I'm expecting oil slicks measured in square kilometers and estimated recovery times of decades, not a few drums worth of contaminated mud. I'd bet money that most readers get down to the middle of the piece, see what it's about, and dismiss it out of hand while adding another checkmark next to "hyperbolic tree-huggers" in their mental list of people to ignore.

No wonder nobody reported on this. This article poisoned an otherwise juicy story. Whatever happened to all the good science journalists, anyway?

2 Comments

you know what you need? a livejournal feed.

Livejournal feed? Good idea, never looked into how to make one, not being a LJ user myself.

I think there's a way to slurp my XML syndication feed into LJ, but that would have to be done from the LJ end. Anyone volunteering to investigate for me?

PS. Hi, Lydia! Good to hear from you.

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on June 5, 2005 10:23 PM.

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