We are approaching the 1-year anniversary of the blowout on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig that resulted in an unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although this is not an issue that is talked about much outside the coast these days, its impacts are far from over.
In the past few months, we have continued to connect with people in local communities to stay abreast of what is going on along the coast. During the UGA Oil Spill Symposium in January, I met a local resident from the Florida panhandle who is steadfast in updating her network on the latest developments and she has graciously included me in her outreach. I also recently connected with Simone Lipscomb, a photographer that has been documenting the impact on wildlife along the coast. She has posted some incredible images as well as some stark reminders of just how serious this issue continues to be. Check out her photos here and her blog here.
Article after article are emerging that highlight just how far-reaching the impacts of the spill continue to be. Here are some of the articles that have come out recently that serve to remind us what coastal residents are still dealing with:
- NOLA.com Article on the potential for health impacts from evaporated oil
- WKRG- Mobile video interview with Dr. Samantha Joye from UGA discussing her research and the assertion that a considerable amount of oil remains in the system
- Red And Black in-depth article on Dr. Joye discussing how she became interested in marine science and her experience researching the BP oil spill
- Pensacola News Journal Article on the large tar mat off Perdido Key in Florida
- Simone Lipscomb blog entry from March 4, 2011 documenting ongoing presence of oil in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
- Recently recorded video with Lori Bosarge from Coden, Alabama describing her health problems she blames on the oil spill. Lori was featured in our documentary film last Fall.
- Video interview with me by the Our Revolution team that’s on a road trip ‘discovering social good’
These are just a few in a consistent stream of stories about impacts such as greatly increased dolphin mortality, large areas of oil and tar mats continuing to wash up on beaches, and perhaps most disturbing, reports of locals who believe they are suffering from serious health impacts from the spill. And of course, this all plays into the confidence of people that would normally be visiting the coast. As we come up on the 1-year anniversary of the spill, we are also approaching the high tourism season along the Gulf coast. Time will tell if this season will provide some relief to the businesses that managed to survive the spill and the winter months. This is perhaps the biggest conundrum. Everyone wants this to be over so they can return to their lives as they were before the spill. Unfortunately, it appears that ‘back to normal’ is not where we are today.
Ever curious, I recently read the report from the President’s Oil Spill Commission, and there were some key takeaways that are worth exploring. I found the report to be quite a thorough and balanced view of the offshore drilling industry accompanied by some very clear recommendations for safety and regulatory enhancements that would help prevent this kind of disaster in the future.
Rather than attempt to recap the entire report here, I encourage anyone interested in learning more about the disaster and the root causes of the accident to read it for themselves. However, I will say that a critical point made is that there is urgent action that needs to be taken on the commission’s recommendations at the level of the Administration, Congress, and the Oil Industry. Absent major changes to the system, we risk facing this same devastating scenario all over again should another blowout occur. I believe the people and wildlife along the coast that have suffered so much as a result of this disaster deserve the nation’s attention in this matter. In the concluding paragraph from the report, this point is poignantly made:
“This Commission proposes in this report a series of recommendations that will enable the country and the oil and gas industry to move forward on this one critical element of U.S. energy policy: continuing, safe, responsible offshore oil drilling to meet our nation’s energy demands over the next decade and beyond. Our message is clear: both government and industry must make dramatic changes to establish the high level of safety in drilling operations on the outer continental shelf that the American public has the right to expect and to demand. It is now incumbent upon the Congress, the executive branch, and the oil and gas industry to take the necessary steps. Respect for the 11 lives lost on that tragic day last April requires no less.”
There are no quick fixes to this situation, but to throw our arms up in the air because it’s too hard, or to pretend the problems do not exist is irresponsible and disrespectful to those whose lives hang in the balance, and especially those lives already lost. We must not forget the importance of making meaningful changes to the industry if we are going to continue to rely on these resources to meet our energy needs.
I encourage everyone to continue to monitor this story and not let it fade into obscurity. We have work to do, and everyone has a role to play. If you need some ideas on what you can do, visit the Taking Action page of our site. Most of all though, continue to ask questions. Dig beneath the surface chatter and the headlines and ask the tough questions before drawing your own conclusions. Then, engage others on the issue and help them understand why this is important. Just don’t forget what happened here. To do so would be a slight to the entire Gulf coast.
Top Photo: Navarre Beach, January 2011, photo by Brandon Sutton
Bottom Photo: Cover of the Oil Spill Commission Report