Pawns and Other Endangered Wildlife

In response to the BP oil spill disaster, a panel of environmental experts were invited to testify before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday, but the room was virtually empty and the panel received very little attention. Three witnesses provided the committee with substantive and science-based testimony on the potential environmental impact of both the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the use of oil dispersant. While extensive attention has been paid to the negligence of the Minerals Management Service and to BP’s responsibility when it comes to paying for “clean-up” & “all legitimate claims” of damage, Congress has failed to adequately protect and defend national environmental and ecological interests.

BP has been allowed to lead the disaster response efforts and to frame the discussion of appropriate “clean up” efforts. Instead of granting so much power to an industry that is not capable or willing to police itself, government must drive and fund the development of a science-based understanding of the environmental impact of this oil spill and the subsequent response. As each of the experts on this panel noted, many of the questions and concerns that are being raised today were asked in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. As Dr. Nancy Kinner, Co-Director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, testified: “It is not a matter of if the next spill will occur, but when.” The U.S. federal government is clearly not prepared.

 

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