On Friday, April 20, the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon accident passed with folks on both sides of the issue taking aim at the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The industry pointed out to the changes that have occurred during the time since the accident. How the industry does business in deep water has changed along with the ability of the industry to respond to offshore oil spills. Industry opponents said that it was business as usual in the Gulf of Mexico and that nothing had really changed. Who is right? There probably is no "right" on an issue like this, but the accident did serve to focus attention on deepwater operations and safety. Randall Luthi, president, National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), remarked, "Today marks the second anniversary of the tragic Macondo well accident. As we reflect on the significance of this day, our thoughts are with the 11 men who lost their lives two years ago today, as well as their loved ones. "The weeks and days leading up to the anniversary have been accompanied by frequent reminders of the tragedy. Amid the media coverage and rhetoric, the fact remains that no well is worth the loss of a life," he continued. "Never has safety been more evident in the offshore industry as today. The lessons of April 20, 2010, have resulted in new deepwater containment systems, a better understanding of the use of dispersants in deep water, an increased ability to effectively respond to any future oil spills, and an industry-sponsored Center for Offshore Safety, which is poised to help shape safety innovation in the future," he emphasized. "Industry leaders and federal regulatory leaders are once again communicating with each other with the common goal of providing energy and jobs to our nation in the safest manner possible. While risk can never be completely eliminated, confidence is high in both industry and the regulatory agencies that all are on the right track," he added. "Industry looks forward to continuing its work with Congress and the regulatory agencies to ensure the priority and focus on safety within the industry remains strong," Luthi concluded. As NOIA pointed out, the Marine Spill Response Corp. has added spill-response equipment, including 10 deepwater skimming vessels. MSRC now has 65,000 total feet of ocean boom for the Gulf of Mexico and two C-130s and four King Air BE 90s dedicated aircraft for spraying chemical dispersants or doing aerial surveillance, compared to two planes before the accident. But more needs to be done, according to Samantha Joye, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia, who was part of a 22-member panel that published a report in the Bioscience journal. The group noted that this oil spill was different than any other previous spill because of the water depth and the amount of oil released. The journal paper was written to focus attention on deepwater oil spills and the lack of data for such incidents. The scientists who were working on the spill devised a new spill response model that is outlined in the paper. Oil spill responses need to be revised, according to Joye and her colleagues. Until that is done, it will be hard to assess the ecological impacts of such a spill very quickly. Greenpeace on the other hand, takes a much more antagonistic viewpoint. In an April 20 press release, the organization stated, "The BP disaster turns two this week. Two years since the nation was reminded that offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous, and deadly. Two years since the slow-motion disaster began changing our region, our communities, our ecosystem. "As we look back and assess where we are today, a troubling picture is emerging from the Gulf. Throughout the food chain, warning signs are accumulating. Dolphins are sick and dying. Important forage fish are plagued with gill and developmental damage. Deepwater species like snapper have been stricken with lesions, and their reefs are losing biodiversity. Coastal communities are struggling with changes to the fisheries they rely upon. "With these impacts already here, some scientists are alarmed by what they're finding. Unfortunately their concerns are largely drowned out by BP and the ‘powers that be' shouting through very large megaphones that, ‘all is fine, BP is making it right, come and spend your money'. But the truth is far different. The Gulf of Mexico, our nation's energy sacrifice zone, continues to suffer," Greenpeace continued. Whichever side of the argument you are on, the Macondo spill was a very sobering event. It provides an opportunity for the industry to show that it is a steward of the environment and is committed to the safety of everyone in the industry. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at email@example.com.
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