Promoted by Rosi Efthim
The catastrophic proportions of one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history with more than 210,000 gallons of oil is continuing to leak daily from a ruptured oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is continuing to threaten the shores of Louisiana and Florida. The unprecedented underwater leak has led to hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil spewing unchecked into the Gulf and moving to the coast, between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Florida.
The “potentially unprecedented environmental disaster,” as President Obama describes the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which was caused by an explosion and fire on the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig followed by a ruptured well. It is sadly noted that 11 workers were killed in the explosion. In addition, the total bill to include clean-up and compensation for damages could exceed $14 billion.
Environmental scientists estimate the ecological and biological consequences could last for years, if not decades. These include, oil remaining in the sediment of a marsh for 20 years, complete plant and animal species being wiped out, and oyster reefs being endangered. Several attempts to contain it have been unsuccessful and only estimated 15 to 20 percent of oil can be recovered from water.
Then, there is the question of corporate responsibility of the London-based BP Plc that owned the oil involved in the recent spill as well as the regulatory environment that oversees the offshore drilling. Three years ago, BP was reeling from accusations of putting profits before safety because of the high incidence of on-the-job accidents in its Texas City refinery, including a deadly explosion. That was turned around by new management, but, it appears that accidents still continue.
In the latest oil spill incident, it has been revealed that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which caught fire and sank into the Gulf didn’t have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as a last resort protection against underwater spills.
President Obama was briefed over the failure of BP to use a remote control shut-off switch and he has vowed that no expansion of offshore oil drilling would take place until federal investigations into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are completed.
As we look forward to the results of the investigation and possible regulatory lapses and potential technological fixes going forward in existing drilling sites, miles of booms are being laid along the coast of four U.S. states in an effort to contain the movement of oil onto beaches and into key wildlife sanctuaries and breeding grounds.
But, this leak is different because it is difficult to stop because it is nearly one mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, where remotely controlled robots are the only ones able to reach the site.
The bigger questions are – By lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling in some U.S. waters, will we be risking human lives, complete plant and animal species, and severe environmental damage and also, putting several coastal economies in grave peril? Is it worth putting at risk hundreds of miles of irreplaceable wetlands and beaches?
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama promised a moratorium on offshore drilling between New England and Florida countering his predecessor George W. Bush who lifted the moratorium during the last weeks of his presidency. Subsequently, Obama announced plans to allow drilling oil and natural gas from Delaware to central Florida among other places, only few days to prior to the oil spill. That would mean drilling off the coast of Virginia could begin as early as 2012 and exploration off the coast of Delaware – 10 miles southwest of Cape May – could come several years after that.
As this oil leak seems certain to become one of the greatest ecological catastrophes in U.S. history, can we afford to expose New Jersey and other coastal states to grave environmental risk from oil spills?
Opening up the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling would do that. This environmental disaster should strengthen our resolve to oppose the expansion of offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. It is advisable to move ahead aggressively to pursue cleaner, safer renewable energies such as solar and wind because that is the pathway to a responsible energy future. We cannot afford to take the risk of the environmental damage from a possible oil spill to the Jersey shoreline that could also cripple the coastal economies of our state.