Government to Reassess Oil Spill Response

Scientists study the causes of oil spills and oil spill response methods

Scientists study the causes of oil spills and oil spill response methods

A panel of 22 US researchers including University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye has urged the federal government to reassess how it would manage oil spill response that might occur in the future.

In addition to creating a new model for understanding how deep-water oil spills occur, the authors argue for an increase in immediately accessible research funding following oil spills so that society can be better prepared for oil spill response in the future, should spills occur.

The 22 researchers, whose paper was published on 20 April in the peer-reviewed journal Bioscience, noted that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unlike any other oil spillencountered previously. Although the well blowout occurred at unprecedented depths and released enormous quantities of oil (an estimated 4.9 million barrels or 206 million gallons), the response to clean up and contain theoil followed a framework that assumed the oil’s behaviour would mimic previous shallow-water and surface spills.

They also noted that the requirement of the federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process that requires cooperative decision-making between the government and the responsible party and mutual approvals of research studies slows down the process and limits the scope of studies that are conducted.

The authors noted that the lack of a model for understanding deep-water spills may have hindered initial work on this disaster and obscured understanding of what actually happened in the key early days. To create their new model, a group of scientists convened under the auspices of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in 2010, while the spill was still active, to synthesise existing knowledge to anticipate the potential ecotoxicologicaleffects of the spill. They highlighted major gaps in scientific understanding that must be addressed for society to successfully confront the modern oil spill in an age in which drilling has moved into deeper water.


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