Environmental scientist speaks up on necessity of legislation for reduction of oil drilling disaster risks
(tba) About two years after the oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the column of the respected science journal Nature has featured an article by Dr. Donald Boesch, Professor of marine science and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge, reminding of the necessity of legislation to reduce the risk of disasters caused by oil drilling in coastal and ocean zones, to improve safety and to protect the environment.
Dr. Boesch "served on the US president's commission that produced the report Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling" and concluded, "that the root causes of the blowout and explosion were deficiencies in regulatory oversight and multiple poor decisions made in the absence of a comprehensive risk-management system."
The scientist states that when working for this commission, he was "impressed by the technologies developed to produce hydrocarbons from ever deeper, more highly pressured formations, but surprised by the lack of sophistication in techniques for detecting and controlling risk, containing the flow of hydrocarbons, collecting spilled oil and protecting vulnerable resources."
If important lessons from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are "not to be lost as the events of 2010 fade from memory", he argues, "there is a pressing need to change the law to make such accidents less likely, and our response more effective."
While BP has reached a settlement at court, paying out some of the affected businesses (CNN reported), the true extent of impacts of the catastrophe on the fisheries and tourism sectors, on health, biodiversity and the economic and biological environment arestill unknown.
A recent study has revealed an unprecedented impact of the oil spill on the deep ocean, in particular on coral communities, and Al Jazeera reported yesterday about the findings of mutated shrimp, deformed fish and clawless crabs. According to the article, local fishermen also mention "eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye-sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills, and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills". The Guardian reported about the current difficulties faced by the courts of finding a money value for the masses of dolphins that had died.
Finally, the report of the US president`s commission and the impacts of the Deep Water Horizon incident show clearly that, given a lack of sophisticated techniques for detecting and controlling risk and protecting vulnerable resources even in the United States, small, vulnerable economies in the Caribbean and the Pacific must be even more careful when engaging in oil drilling in coastal and ocean zones and should enact proactive legislation to avoid disaster risks from oil drilling.