Is a Return to Oil Business as Usual Really Worth the Risk?

I have to admit that I am totally mystified. Record numbers of turtles and neonatal and new borne dolphins are washing up on our beaches; we have not yet determined how much damage has been done to Gulf fish species, deep water corals, or wetlands; our Congressmen and Senators from the Gulf have yet to secure a single dime for restoration; BOEMRE has not completed any environmental review of the risks posed by continuing drilling; and even more importantly, no one has yet to produce a new oil spill response plan for the Gulf; yet the nation is rushing to reopen deepwater drilling in the Gulf.Additionally, the Oil Spill Commission found that there are industry-wide problems, and a recent finding shows that blow out preventers may have serious flaws. Although the industry has announced a new containment system that can be “deployed in 24 hours” , they admit that it would take 14-21 to actually stop a spill of the size we faced in the BP deepwater drilling disaster. At a potential of 60,000 barrels a day that is 840,000 to 1,260,000 barrels of oil that could be released before this state of the art system would stem the next disaster. Yet, political pressure from our local officials, our Congressional delegation and even editorials from New Orleans’ home-town newspaper have helped pave the way for business as usual at BOERME (formerly MMS). Permits for exploration and drilling are being issued weekly. Even BP may soon be allowed to return to drilling in the Gulf. It seems the only heartburn anyone is expressing is that BP has now applied for a new permit, but this is an industry-wide issue.It is clear that the facts are being ignored. Contrary to the statements of the politicians, BP was not a lone, rogue bad actor and there is a very real risk that continued deep water drilling by any company will result in another spill of significant size. When the BP drilling disaster occurred, I recieved little satisfaction from telling state and federal leaders “I told you so.” I will get even less satisfaction pointing to our history as a voice of reason when, having had little time to recover from the BP disaster, the natural resources of the Gulf suffer from the next big oil drilling disaster.Cyn Sarthou is GRN’s Executive Director