t’s been said many times that it will be many years before we know the true extent of the environmental damage caused by the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Trying to wrap one’s head around the consequences of introducing 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into a fragile ocean ecosystem is difficult, especially when BP and its corporate partners did their best to keep the public from getting a good look at the worst of it.
In August of 2010, Greenpeace filed a Freedom of Information Act request [PDF] to see any communication related to the oil spill and endangered or threatened Gulf species. It took two long years for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to fill the request, and when you take a look at some of the pictures they were hiding, it’s not hard to see why.
“The White House was sitting on this stuff for over two years, at the same time they were saying everything was fine, that the oil was gone, and while they were rushing ahead with plans for new drilling in the Gulf, the Arctic, elsewhere,” said John Hocevar, a marine biologist with Greenpeace in a recent release. ”It’s just not okay. This is not an acceptable type of collateral damage.”
As Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard points out, most of the photos are missing dates and descriptions, so some, like the one above featuring dozens of garbage bags presumably full of dead wildlife, are hard to decipher. Regardless, they confirm the worst fears of many around the United States: the BP oil spill had a direct and immediate impact on the many protected and endangered species that call the Gulf Coast home.
Although BP and the government made sure to circulate lots of pictures of turtles and pelicans being saved from the oil, they purposefully hoarded images showing the public the deadly consequences of Big Oil’s “lack of a safety culture.” Maybe if more people had to look at pictures like this splashed across the headlines, they’d be less likely to support “drill, baby, drill” politicians.
Visit Greenpeace.org to view more of the recently released images.