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Effort To End Timor Sea Oil Spill Delayed

I’ve been following the developments in an oil spill off the coast of Australia for a few weeks now, and throughout that time, I’ve expected to hear that the spill has been stopped. Yet, that news never comes. PTTEP Australasia, the oil drilling company that is responsible for the disaster, had told the world that it would finally, after three botched attempts, plug the leak yesterday. Now it appears that PTTEP didn’t even try. The company says that it still needs a few days to get ready.

offshore oil drillingTwo months and two days after the biggest oil spill in Australian history began, and the oil drilling company still isn’t ready to stop it? Imagine what it would be like if the oil spill were taking place near the Florida Keys, or close to Chesapeake Bay. That’s what politicians from both the Republican and Democratic parties are risking with their reckless policy of drill baby drill.

Even with the current level of offshore drilling taking place along the shores of the United States, our nation’s marine ecosystems are suffering. An oil spill near Charleston, South Carolina is still being cleaned up this morning, and another spill this week, which took place near Galveston when two ships going to offshore drilling platforms collided, was not as easy to contain as was first reported, given rough seas.

Back in the Timor Sea, new doubts are arising about the oil drilling company’s claims that the huge oil spill had no real effect on marine life. It turns out that the results of only one of many tests of marine life were publicly released. The one report that was released was based only on tests of four fish collected from the thousands of square miles of oil covered waters. Furthermore, those four fish were frozen before testing, which made it impossible to perform the most reliable test of oil contamination.

Yesterday, the World Wildlife Fund released a report that summarizes the biodiversity of the area now covered by the oil slick and the likely impact of the spill on that life. One scene from the group’s survey: “Late afternoon, we encountered a thick layer of oil like a soft yellow crust, accompanied by moderately heavy oil sheen and a strong oil smell. This was about flush with the edge of the Sahul Banks. Two groups of Spinner Dolphins, sea snakes and Sooty Terns were observed in the slick which continued until night fall.”

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