The extreme ugly side of offshore drilling has recently reared its head with the April 20 explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent gushing of oil into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 210,000 gallons each day, which may or may not be stopped any time soon.
The extreme ugly side of offshore drilling has recently reared its head with the April 20 explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent gushing of oil into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 210,000 gallons each day, which may or may not be stopped any time soon. The irony is that at the time of the explosion, senior BP execs were on board to celebrate the safety of the operation.
The disaster has raised many questions regarding offshore oil drilling—should we scale back, given the now obvious risks? What would happen if such a tragedy occurred in our own backyard? Oregon has been looked to from time to time for possible offshore drilling, but little promise for oil has risen—for now.
BP has the reputation as a company that puts profits over safety, as the giant oil company’s safety record was among the worst in the dangerous oil industry. The company is required by law to pay up to $75 million for the current cleanup, but it’s very possible that the cost will exceed that amount, according to The New York Times.
With this kind of profit-hungry attitude, it’s doubtful we will see BP become generous and offer to pay more money if the costs of the cleanup prove to be over the allotted amount.
The cost of the cleanup is only one part of the catastrophe. There is also the economic impact on the fishing and tourist industries in the Gulf States, along with absolutely horrific environmental consequences and impacts on wildlife. If this incident doesn’t remind everyone that we need to focus on alternative energy, I hate to think what would.
You might recall during the last presidential campaign certain candidates chanting “drill baby drill” as an expression of their excitement to dangerously exploit natural resources beneath the ocean floor. Hopefully the enthusiasm has waned in light of what has happened in the gulf with the Deepwater Horizon.
Offshore drilling has been a controversial issue since about the 1950s, when American citizens began questioning environmental impacts as well as jurisdiction, safety and economics of the process.
U.S. Energy Information Administration’s overview of offshore activity states that there are about 4,000 platforms in federal waters today. States have jurisdiction over the natural resources within the first three nautical miles of their shores, but after that the federal government holds those rights. Are Oregonians and our precious land and water in danger of this kind of catastrophe?
At this point the answer is, thankfully, no. In March, President Obama released his oil plan. He did plan to expand offshore drilling, presumably in an effort to limit oil imports, but since the gulf incident those plans have been put on hold. The plans had allowed for more drilling along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska. The plan excluded drilling along the entire Pacific coast through 2017.
Vicki McConnell is the director of Oregon’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. She spoke about the possibility of oil drilling in Oregon to OBP in September 2008, saying, “It’s unlikely that we’ll see oil and gas drilling rigs off the Oregon coast anytime soon.”
McConnell said there are no active oil wells in Oregon and usually what is on land is presumed to be underwater, so it is not expected that there is much oil out there. Eight exploratory wells have shown only minor amounts of gas and no oil. What a blessing.
Oregon lawmakers are doing their part to keep our waters safe and clean, too. In February, the Oregon Senate passed House Bill 3613, renewing a ban that began in the 1990s that prohibited leasing for purposes of exploration, development or production of oil, gas or sulfur in territorial seas, meaning three nautical miles. The governor signed the bill into law on March 4.
Leasing waters and lands to use for drilling might seem pretty tempting in the present economy, but there are major problems with it anywhere and especially for a state like Oregon with hundreds of miles of pristine coastline.
The money the state might make is nothing in comparison to the potential economic impact if something goes wrong with the drilling, causing a big spill or spewing leak. A spill isn’t the only pollution caused by offshore drilling, either.
According to nonprofit agency Environment Oregon’s website, a single drilling rig can drill between 50 and 100 wells, each dumping as much as 25,000 pounds of toxic metals, such as lead, chromium and mercury, and potent carcinogens such as toluene, benzene and xylene, into the ocean. A single rig can create as much air pollution as 7,000 cars driving 50 miles each day.
According to the laws that are in effect nationally and statewide, as well as what resources are believed to be out there, Oregon is safe from offshore drilling for now. Too bad all states cannot have that sense of security. Ultimately, however, we are all stewards of this planet together, and the Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill is everyone’s oil spill.