As Hurricane Isaac neared the Louisiana shore, many observers immediately thought of Hurricane Katrina’s impact 7 years ago. And while the storm certainly evoked images of that tragic period in New Orleans’ history, it also seems to have washed ashore memories of a more recent disaster in the Gulf Coast.

Oil in the form of tar has washed up all along the coast, prompting bans on fishing in some areas as the government calls for help to clean up the area. All eyes are fixated on the BP Deepwater Horizon rig as the source:

“I’d say there’s a smoking gun,” said Garret Graves, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top adviser on coastal issues. He said tests were being done to verify the source of the oil.
“It’s an area that experienced heavy oiling during the oil spill,” he said.

Of course, in BP’s usual “What? You mean us? Are you sure? Nah, double-check,” response, they’re hedging that it was from that spill. They’re acting as though there was some other recent spill that was the cause and not the one that was the largest oil spill in history.

“It is premature to make any claims about possible oiling there — whether it is from the Deepwater Horizon accident or any other source,” BP said in a statement emailed late Tuesday.

The idea of tar balls washing ashore is hardly new. In an article from February of this year, National Geographic took an in-depth look at the remaining oil in the Gulf Coast and how it’s affecting the shoreline.

Markus Huettel, a benthic ecologist at Florida State University, has been researching the status of Deepwater Horizon oil on Florida Panhandle beaches since June 2010. Huettel explained that while much of the BP well’s oil was degraded or evaporated. A staggering amount—he suggests 60 percent is a conservative estimate—remains unaccounted for.

I suppose in someone’s twisted mind at BP, the new closings of the beach because of tar is only a fraction of the downtime compared to the months of lost fishing that BP’s oil spill forced on the industry, so why rush to clean it up? But the company wrecked the shore and the Gulf Coast with the spill, so quibbling over who’s to blame for a portion of it – when it’s obvious it’s you – is not only poor form, it’s insulting. Then again, it’s far too late to expect BP to get it’s act together.

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