Contributors: Hilary Doe, National Director of the Roosevelt Campus Network and Shayna Pollock, Roosevelt Campus Network, University of Georgia
As people across the country gear up for tax season, beltway politicos turn their attention to the State of the Union, and everyone everywhere talks about debt and tea parties, let’s not forget about the State of the Gulf Coast–the deficit of wildlife, commerce, and jobs in the area. The destruction that the BP oil spill caused in our waters, on our land, and for the people all along the coast. Though, like everything, BP’s fifteen minutes in the spotlight has ended, there is no deficit of hope on the part of young people, committed to keeping those affected by the oil spill in mind and preventing another disaster from occurring in the future.
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill happened nearly 9 months ago. After gushing oil for 86 days, making it the largest accidental oil spill in history, the US government declared the rig officially capped in September. The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling declared the explosion avoidable. Better governmental oversight and implementation of more extensive precautions could have prevented the blowout.
Frustrated by reports of weak oversight, an ineffective claims process, immense wildlife destruction, and economic devastation, the Roosevelt Institute chapter at the University of Georgia, engaged in a project entitled SPIL: Solving Petroleum Impacts Legislatively, traveled to Dauphin Island and Mobile, Alabama to learn first-hand about the impacts of the oil spill through interviews. While the nine students on the trip conducted research beforehand, the trip to the gulf region allowed for further in-depth qualitative research on a variety of topics relating to the spill. The interviews touched on the claims process, contracting for clean-up assistance, oversight of oil rigs, emergency preparedness, and the long-term environmental effects of the spill. Across these numerous facets of the spill, interviewees continued to be disappointed by BP’s coordination of the entire clean-up and claims effort.
Multiple parties are to blame in the environmental disaster that destroyed miles of coastline, wrecked ecosystems, and ruined the tourist industry in the Gulf states. However, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill is evidence of one overarching systemic problem: the relationship between oil companies and the government.
BP capped the flowing rig, but the primary problem remains unfixed. The government continues their futile efforts to clean up both the economic and environmental effects of the spill. However, their “solution” utilizes the same broken mechanisms that led to the explosion in the first place: the immense influence of BP. How does this promote effective regulation and transparency? BP pays Kenneth Feinberg. BP, along with other big oil companies, develops the industry standard for oil rig inspection and safety. BP hires its own workers for contract instead of using local business people harmed by the spill. BP funds the scientists still researching the damage in the gulf. The disaster continues to unfold through unanswered claims, devastated businesses, and largely unregulated rigs.
The researchers from the trip are now tasked with the immense challenge of composing policies that will reduce the current devastation and set a regulatory framework for the future. The group of researchers will ultimately produce six unique and progressive policies that aim to solve a specific failure within the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
As part of this initiative, Roosevelt at UGA will be hosting a conference on April 9, 2011 to unveil the research group’s findings and bring other students, experts, and policymakers together in a mutual exchange of ideas and information about how to solve the current crisis in the gulf and prevent future offshore disasters.
Complimenting the conference at the University of Georgia, Roosevelt at UGA is sponsoring the release of a one-time publication compiling short articles, written by students and policymakers participating in the conference, on the crisis in the Gulf to be published by the Roosevelt Institute and disseminated at the national level.