Since oil began leaking from a rig in the Gulf of Mexico last April, concerns regarding the safety of the region’s seafood abounded. Now, more than two months after the leak was sealed, public officials, federal scientists and even President Obama have all been saying that seafood from the Gulf region is safe to eat. So why aren’t consumers digging in? Several local leaders from the region impacted by the oil spill addressed this topic last week during the most recent hearing of the National Commission on the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling in Washington, D.C.
Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Terence Houston.
The second meeting of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling highlighted both deficiencies in the Obama Administration’s and British Petroleum’s handling of the spill, as well as methods to improve coordination between those two parties.
Participants in the hearing, which occurred August 25 in Washington, DC, sought to examine regulatory oversight issues in offshore drilling. One point of consensus between both commissioners and several of the panelists was that scientific input into the review process needed to be increased.
In a congressional briefing yesterday on “Hurricanes and Oil: Managing Risk Now,” Rowan Douglas, Managing Director of the Willis Research Network’s (Willis Re) Global Analytics Division, was unable to see the screen his fellow panelists were using for their presentations. He did, however, have a perfect view of the audience. During one particular presentation, he witnessed everyone’s “eyes getting as big as saucers,” as he put it.
It seems the only certainty amidst the Gulf of Mexico environmental disaster is that nothing is certain. From the amount of oil continually pouring from the seafloor to British Petroleum’s use of chemical dispersants, this crisis has been anything but straightforward. As evasive, and at times downright misleading, as BP has been, the environmental impacts of this disaster are far from allusive. Just take a look at the photos on the Public Broadcasting Service’s News Hour site to get a sense of urgency surrounding this crisis.
Earlier this month at the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Scientific Symposium at Louisiana State University (LSU), scientists emphasized the importance and urgency of consulting with researchers during the remediation of the Gulf of Mexico disaster. The meeting pulled together more than 200 attendees, including officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced yesterday morning that exploratory oil drilling off Alaska and deep water drilling in the Guld of Mexico will be suspended due to safety concerns. The White House also said it has cancelled a drilling lease off the coast of Virginia. Fearing another spill like the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, officials cited a need for further environmental reviews and evaluations of nation-wide emergency response capabilities.