I found a small oil spill on Google Maps in Alaska. I don’t know if it’s been reported, but I think it is new.
- The first image (top) is a stunning landscape aerial of a northern part of Alaska called North Slope. To the far left, you can see ConocoPhillips’s private airport, named Alpine Airstrip, and also their oil drilling operation on the permafrost along a river.
- The second image is a zoom in of the airstrip and the operation. Note the oval where I think the spill occurred.
- The third image zooms in a bit more. You can see the pipeline and some detail of the permafrost, which looks like crocodile skin. On the right, you can see a flare at the top of a well. Top right, you can see the containment booms stretched into the river and a dark stream of oil leaking into the river.
- The forth screenshot is blurry. But, you can clearly see oil containment booms anchored on the river banks and dark stream of oil in the water.
Google’s watermark on this map is 2013, so these satellite shots are very recent. This is a fresh spill but doesn’t look at all major.
Still, I find this spill interesting for two reasons:
First, as I’ve written before, spills occur all the time. And it’s incredible that the media doesn’t cover enough spills in remote, dangerous parts of the world. I get that environmental reporting doesn’t generate substantial revenue, but that is not the primary mission of news organizations. Look at any news outlet’s mission statement and you’ll find one thing in common: they exist to inform the public. Do you feel informed? It is up to the public to demand more environmental news, otherwise spills like these remain unnoticed, to the giddy thrill of oil companies.
Second, last week, Shell was banned from drilling in the Alaskan Arctic seas. While this is a temporary ban, it shows that the administration is concerned with oil and gas exploration in remote, dangerous areas of the United States. But, even when oil companies state in their environmental assessments that they’ll play nice, they don’t. Indeed, considering the volume of spills, the weakness of fines and inspections, and the lack of interest in the news, oil companies are having a field day.
It should not be up to unpaid bloggers like me to expose major environmental harms. It is the responsibility of the media. And they need to get on this.
Update: Alaska DEC offered several alternatives, but they think it is an unreported spill most likely from late 2012. They also note that if it is a spill, they are not aware of it being reported in their petrochemical spill databases.