Here’s an update on our earlier post urging agencies to affirmatively post online documents, videos, images and other information about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico before a FOIA request comes in.
It was a quick post, and it would have been a better piece if we had described what agencies have done to post information online.
BP operates a joint information center where many agencies, including the Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), post information. The joint website also includes BP and Transocean, which runs the Deepwater Horizon rig where the accident occurred. The agencies themselves have a great deal of background information and daily updates on their response.
Despite this communications effort, two controversies have emerged: First, is the dispersant used, Clorexit, doing more bad than good when used in the unprecedented quantities that BP is pumping deep underwater in the Gulf? EPA today ordered BP to select a less toxic dispersant, submit it to EPA within 24 hours, and begin using it on the spill within 72 hours.
Second, there are questions about how much oil is leaking into the Gulf each day, where the plumes of oil are sitting below the water’s surface, and whether the oil has reached the so-called “loop current” where it would hitchhike a ride around Florida and spread devastation up the East Coast. By now, video images are widespread showing billows of a smoke-like substance rising from the broken pipe laying on the seabed. Scientists reportedly are criticizing the lack of monitoring of the spill.
Despite BP’s efforts to clean up the spill, at this time, we did not see the video of the seabed (and archival footage from the start of the spill, for that matter) on the joint information center’s website. This would be a good place to start. And keep up the work of keeping the public informed by anticipating other FOIA requests (or viewing the requests that have already come in and posting repeatedly requested information) and posting those responsive documents on the joint center’s website.