Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not One But Two Oil Spills Fouled New Bedford Harbor Today

I've covered oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and in Arkansas, but today the oil came to me.

This morning a local journalist alerted me to reports of an oil spill right down the street from me in New Bedford Harbor. I headed down and found hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel (dyed red for tax purposes) coating the water off Pier 3. Some television crews were filming the spill, so I talked to WJAR and WLNE generally about the potential impacts of oil spills - concern for the people who make their living off the water, the fish who swim in it, and the seabirds who land in it.

As soon as I finished, a Coast Guard staffer angrily told me, "You shouldn't be talking to the press. We should be presenting a united front."

"I work for the National Wildlife Federation, not a federal agency," I said. "I'd be happy to work together on this - just tell me what's going on."

She stared at me and said nothing.

"OK, well so much for a united front," I shrugged.

Coincidentally, the Energy Exodus march was passing through New Bedford at the exact same time as the oil spill. The climate activists are marching all the way from Somerset's Brayton Point coal-fired power plant to Hyannis in support of Cape Wind.

In less of a coincidence, the moment the Coast Guard staffers saw the dozens of Energy Exodus folks arriving, they threw up yellow caution tape and ordered all civilians away from the oil spill.

As it turns out, this was the first of two oil spills in New Bedford Harbor today. I understand tracking down the culprits is hard, but do the local authorities have to sound so fatalistic already? Welp, lotsa boats, they all look alike, whaddya gonna do?

Southeastern New England faces a choice - move aggressively towards a clean energy future, or face more oil spills.

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