Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Two Year Anniversary of Deepwater Horizon: Oil Spill Commission Action (US) issues "Report Card"

After concluding their work as the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, its now former members launched the Oil Spill Commission Action project (OSCA).

In time for the two year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster (April 20, 2010), OSCA has issued a report card assessing how the US Congress, the Administration and Industry have done in implementing the Commission's Recommendations, which were published in the Commission's Final Report of January 2011. The report explains the summary grades assigned to each actor for its work to date (Congress "D",  Administration "B" and Industry a "B") as follows:

"Overall, we conclude that, although much more needs to be done, the Administration and industry are undertaking important enhancements to make offshore drilling safer and to improve the nation’s ability to respond to oil spills that may occur. Unfortunately, so far, Congress has provided neither leadership nor support for these efforts."

The report assesses five categories, The Arctic among them:
"Safety and Environmental Protection(B)
Industry and most federal agencies have made or are making significant improvements in the way offshore oil operations are developed, carried out, and overseen. These hold promise but continued improvements are required, and Congress has done nothing to make permanent the improvements that have been made.
Spill Response and Containment(B-)
Industry and most federal agencies are also making significant improvements in their ability to contain and respond to offshore oil spills. The nation is certainly in a much better situation than it was two years ago. However, the efficacy of these modifications under the harsh conditions of deep water drilling still needs to be demonstrated and, again, Congress has provided little support for these efforts.
Impacts and Restoration(C)
Implementing the Commission’s recommendations on impacts and restoration is, at best, a work in progress. Though we are hopeful that the current efforts to initiate a comprehensive restoration program in the Gulf will succeed, we are discouraged by the modest steps that have been taken.
Ensuring Adequate Resources(D)
Although the Administration and Congress have provided increases in funding for the Department of the Interior to operate its regulatory programs, Congress has taken no action to make the program self-funding. Nor has Congress taken action to adjust the existing unrealistic limits on liability and response funding.
Frontier Areas—The Arctic (C)
Although there has been some progress in implementing the Commission’s recommendations concerning frontier areas, we feel strongly that additional work must be done to understand the ecosystems of the Arctic and to establish the infrastructure necessary to protect this vulnerable and valuable region."

The OSCA report is available on the group's Website: Oil Spill Commission Action.
Download the report...

Among the many other US resources related to the Deepwater Horizon are reports and data available from NOAA,  from the Department of the Interior (and its Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and  Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's Deepwater Reading Room); and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Industry, NGOs and media are also marking the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon.

Notable among the coverage is American Petroleum Institute Upstream Director, Erik Milito, discussing seven lessons to be learned from the tragedy.  The API is a key player in the Center for Offshore Safety.  The Center was established in partial keeping with a Deepwater Commission's recommendation but, as a fully industry supported center, varies from the recommended independent status of such an organization.
Separately, Alex Chadwick is featured in a broadcast documentary Burn, about the search for oil.
Other media coverage includes:;

The National Energy Board of Canada completed its post-Deepwater Arctic Ocean Drilling Review, issuing its report in December 2011.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

NOAA National Geophysical Data Center: new viewer for seafloor and continental shelf data

A new viewer allows anyone with access to the internet to view high-resolution bathymetric and other data depicting information about the world's oceans, seafloor and continental shelves.  The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) makes the information available through its Marine Geology and Geophysics Division in Boulder, Colorado, part of NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC).

An independent report on the new viewer observes that "NGDC’s sea floor data have long been free and open to the public in original science formatting, but that often required the use of specialized software to convert the data into maps and other products. "For serious scientists, the new viewer allows an important preview capability that will help speed data access and analysis. But its real power is exposing a new audience to NOAA data," said Dan Price, bathymetric program manager at NGDC."

The maps can be viewed in Mercator and Arctic Projection and are available here.

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.