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.
An oil slick originating from a rig about 130 miles southeast of New Orleans, which is dumping oil into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of approximately 25,000 barrels per day, is drifting toward the Alabama, Florida and Louisiana coasts, and scientists are still assessing the ecological impact that will result. In the Q&A below, three members of the Ecological Society of America’s Rapid Response Team discuss the current and possible future damage of this spill and the effects it could have on the Gulf region.
Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Piper Corp.