November is Manatee Awareness Month; but no matter what time of year it is, manatees deserve to be celebrated. These amazing creatures fulfill a unique niche by serving as indicator species for ecosystems across the United States. Because of their reliance on the health of their habitat, manatees often act as a signal of their environment’s well-being. NOAA photo by Michael Buchanan.
Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
BSEE Launches Deepwater Oil and Gas Containment Exercise
MWCC to Deploy Capping Stack in Gulf of Mexico
WASHINGTON—The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) today initiated the first ever drill designed to deploy critical pieces of state-of-the-art well control equipment to the ultra-deep seabed of the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to exercise the oil and gas industry's response to a potential subsea blowout. The multi-week exercise, launched at 8:10 am CDT and employing the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC), is part of a series of planned and unannounced exercises and inspections conducted by BSEE to ensure the industry's ability to meet the conditions of their oil spill response plans and effectively respond to a potential spill.
Following the Deepwater Horizon incident, the Interior Department undertook the most aggressive overhaul of oil and gas safety regulations in U.S. history. Included in these reforms is the expectation that companies would have access to and could deploy surface and subsea containment resources that would be adequate to promptly respond to a blowout or other loss of well control, several components of which are being tested in this exercise initiated today.
In May, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar directed MWCC to conduct a live drill as an opportunity to deploy systems, test readiness for a worst-case scenario, and train under real-time conditions.
“This exercise will help further enhance industry's preparedness by deploying one important component of their well control capabilities to the sea floor,” said BSEE Director Jim Watson. “Testing this equipment in real-time conditions and ultra-deep water depths will help ensure that the MWCC is ready and able to respond in a moment's notice should the need arise.”
The demonstration is part of President Obama's goal of expanded responsible production of our domestic energy resources while ensuring the strongest possible safety and environmental oversight of offshore oil and gas activities on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.
The exercise will involve the mobilization and field deployment of the capping stack to the sea floor in approximately 7,000 feet of water, latching it to a test wellhead, and pressurizing the system. The exercise is also designed to test an operator's ability to obtain and schedule the deployment of the supporting systems necessary for successful containment – including debris removal equipment and other oil collection devices. The MWCC capping stack is similar to the one that was used to stop the flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well.
BSEE inspectors, engineers, and spill response experts will be embedded in various locations throughout the exercise, including in the command center and on the vessel deploying the capping stack, to oversee the mobilization, deployment, and associated tests of the system. BSEE experts will oversee the capping stack being lowered to the seafloor by wire, a technique that offers the potential to be significantly faster than the deployment via pipe that occurred during the Deepwater Horizon response.