ANCHORAGE, Alaska — With a presidential commission slated to issue a report on the cause of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Monday, local environmentalist Rick Steiner shared some of the key findings in his research on the spill at Alaska Pacific University Sunday.
More than six months after the Deepwater Horizon spill, Alaskans are constantly reminded of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill -- and Steiner, a former marine conservation professor, says his work identifies similarities between the two disasters.
Both government agencies and the general public are finding the spill’s effects still fresh, although it happened in April.
“I don't know how catastrophic the event will be through time, just as how catastrophic the Valdez -- don’t know,” said presentation spectator Joel Adams.
“It's pretty scary,” said spectator Haley Dunleavy.
So far, 4,000 bird carcasses have been recovered in the Gulf of Mexico. More recently, scientists found damage to deep-sea coral several miles from the site of BP's blown-out well.
“It's not one cause, it's not two, it's a string of probably 20 failures -- both human error and equipment malfunction, but also government malfeasance, and government oversight was totally ineffective,” Steiner said. “We may fix the exact causes of the Deepwater Horizon, but we may miss the other one hundred ways these things can happen.”
Among those causes, Steiner says the Deepwater Horizon's cement barrier was ineffective, its blowout preventer had a dead battery and the design contributed to the cause. An emergency-disconnect system also failed.
Steiner says his study shows that Alaska is still not ready for offshore drilling. Federal officials are currently enforcing an Arctic drilling moratorium set in place after the Gulf spill, despite a lawsuit from the State of Alaska.
“Take that lesson and apply it to our situation in Alaska,” Steiner said. “And when we make decisions on drilling in offshore, let's do so with complete information: honestly, transparently and with great government buy-in and industry being more honest.”
Sunday’s event offered some answers to what may have caused such a devastating spill -- but questions remain on how one might be prevented in the future.
Steiner says he has given his presentation at several universities, as well as a keynote speech for a gathering of Gulf region non-governmental organizations last month.
Contact Christine Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org