Mitchell did not challenge Burr's false assertion that "there wasn't a drop" of oil "that was spilled in the Gulf" due to Category 5 hurricanes

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On MSNBC Live, responding to a comment by Andrea Mitchell about "the massive 1969 oil spill" in Santa Barbara, California, Sen. Richard Burr stated: "Well, Andrea, how technology has changed since 1969. It can take a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf that really came twice, and the technology made sure that there wasn't a drop that was spilled in the Gulf." In fact, a report prepared for the U.S. Minerals Management Service stated that as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita "124 [oil] spills were reported with a total volume of roughly 17,700 barrels of total petroleum products."

On the June 24 edition of MSNBC Live, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell failed to challenge Sen. Richard Burr's (R-NC) false assertion that "there wasn't a drop" of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico during "a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf that really came twice." Mitchell noted that Sen. John McCain was promoting his energy proposals, which include lifting the federal moratorium on offshore drilling, in Santa Barbara, California, and said that "protestors won't let the senator forget about the massive 1969 oil spill that city suffered from a leak at the same type of offshore drills that John McCain is now supporting." Burr responded: "Well, Andrea, how technology has changed since 1969. It can take a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf that really came twice, and the technology made sure that there wasn't a drop that was spilled in the Gulf." In fact, in the case of the two most recent Category 5 hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, according to a 2007 report prepared for the U.S. Minerals Management Service by the international consulting firm Det Norske Veritas, "124 [oil] spills were reported with a total volume of roughly 17,700 barrels of total petroleum products." The report further noted that "about 13,200 barrels were crude oil and condensate from platforms, rigs and pipelines, and 4,500 barrels were refined products from platforms and rigs."

The report included the following chart of oil spill statistics for damage to Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) structures related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:

From the report:

Offshore environmental impacts as a result of hurricane events in the GOMR [Gulf of Mexico Region] have typically been minor due to the downhole safety valves at wells and operating practices conducted by the oil and gas industry with respect to platforms and pipelines in advance of approaching hurricanes, and the Oil Spill Response Plans that are developed by operators and submitted to the MMS.

The impacts from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were typical of this historical experience. While cleanup was required. The volume of oil spilled and impacts to shore from the offshore infrastructure were categorized as minor. Onshore impacts from localized tank failures resulting from flooding were more significant, but are not in the scope of the damage assessment carried out by DNV.

The summary analysis of oil spills was presented by the Region Response Team for the MMS and was the source of the data in Table 2. The data is categorized by storm and source locations, and captures all spills one barrel or larger from federal OCS facilities that resulted from damages related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As a result of both storms, 124 spills were reported with a total volume of roughly 17,700 barrels of total petroleum products, of which about 13,200 barrels were crude oil and condensate from platforms, rigs and pipelines, and 4,500 barrels were refined products from platforms and rigs.

Pipelines were accountable for 72 spills totaling about 7,300 barrels of crude oil and condensate spilled into the GOM. Response and recovery efforts kept the impacts to a minimum with no onshore impacts from these spill events.

From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the June 24 edition of MSNBC Live:

MITCHELL: We'll get to all this, while John McCain is campaigning right now in one of the most environmentally sensitive cities in the country, Santa Barbara, California. He's pushing his energy plan in Santa Barbara, but protestors won't let the senator forget about the massive 1969 oil spill that city suffered from a leak at the same type of offshore drills that John McCain is now supporting. Here with us now, Senator Richard Burr, a John McCain supporter. Thank you for joining us. Senator, it does seem like not the greatest scheduling idea, to announce your change of position on offshore drilling, and then go the following week to Santa Barbara, California, where Republicans as well as Democrats are incredibly sensitive to what you see, you see the drills when you look out over that narrow channel, and everyone there remembers the 1969 oil spill, even those who weren't alive back then. It has become, you know, a huge symbol of environmentalism.

BURR: Well, Andrea, how technology has changed since 1969. It can take a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf that really came twice, and the technology made sure that there wasn't a drop that was spilled in the Gulf. I think that it's the right place to go to announce the need for us not only to increase our supply, but to reduce our usage of petroleum products, and that's John McCain's message.

MITCHELL: Well you also, of course, represent North Carolina, a Gulf state, a coastal state. Very -- you know -- big investments in tourism. We've talked to Republicans and Democrats from a lot of these states, and this is a very big issue, this is a big change. Isn't this a huge risk for the Republican Party?

Posted In
Environment & Science, Drilling, Energy
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Andrea Mitchell
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
Hurricane Katrina, Natural Disasters
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