“It didn’t take any time at all to find large streaks of oil,” she said after a recent flight over the well off the coast of Louisiana.
Schumaker is a pilot with the environmental non-profit On Wings of Care. She has flown regular flights over the Deepwater Horizon site.
Reports of new oil leaking into the Gulf began surfacing last summer, though BP has denied such. An LSU scientist fingerprinted a sample of the oil to the Macando well in the fall, but theorized that it had probably been trapped in the sunk rigging. With regular sighting persisting, that theory might not be holding water.
Based in California, Schumaker said she will be returning to the Gulf region at the end of March to further investigate the oil sightings, as well as taking a look at what might be happening on the Gulf floor—some fear the floor may be fractured and seeping an unusually high amount of oil. She said she will be participating with a group of researchers sending down a remote submersible.
“We’ll have some real answers here soon,” Schumaker said. “—soon, maybe in a month.”
The pilot said she’s not a “muckraker.”
“I’m not trying to make trouble, I just want to know the facts.”
NO NATURAL GAS FOR SCHOOL BUSSES It doesn’t appear the Escambia County School District is going to be jumping on the natural gas bandwagon any time soon.
“If this was just about cheaper fuel, we’d be all over it,” said Rob Doss, the district’s transportation director, during a March 15 workshop.
The city of Pensacola is investing heavily in natural gas. In addition to owning a natural gas company—Energy Services of Pensacola, or ESP—it is also committing to considerable infrastructure in order to begin switching some fleet vehicles to the fuel. There are eventual commercial aspirations and the city has encouraged the school district to begin switching its fleet of busses to the less expensive fuel.
Doss reported to the Escambia County School Board that natural gas, while cheaper at the pump, was not a good fit for the 68th largest fleet of school busses in the country.
“We’ve looked at this issue top to bottom and far and wide,” he told them.
Doss warned the board against becoming “totally infatuated with a new idea.” He suggested the district wait and see how the natural gas industry grew and changed before committing.
Although he did call natural gas’ environmental attributes into question, Doss’ primary concern with the fuel was cost. While natural gas is cheaper, the district would have to invest in new busses—which cost about $30,000 more than diesel models—to take advantage of the fuel. It would also need to consider the cost of driving the busses to the limited number of pump stations, and paying for the drivers to wait during the lengthy fueling process.
“Without putting any numbers to it you already know the cost of labor is going to be more expensive,” Doss told the board.
Doss also spoke about environmental concerns surrounding the natural gas industry. He said that as the industry grew he suspected it would be burdened with additional environmental regulations. The transportation director suggested waiting to see how such regulations would affect cost.
“See what happens with regulation, see what happens with the cost,” he said. “See what happens to all the things we are interested in.”
Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said the district could reconsider in the future.
“Right now, it just doesn’t work,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it won’t in a year or two.”
Chuck Good, assistant director of ESP, said that the school district should expect the natural gas infrastructure to increase in the coming years. He said that switching fleet fuels made sense for the city, ESP, ECUA and possibly other commercial customers.
“We respect that,” he said of the school district’s wait-and-see approach. “They had to base it on their financial ability.”