oil spill in Phillippines

2006 Guimaras Island, Philippines oil spill (PHOTO: Hazel P. Villa)

In today’s Eugene Register-Guard, ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik writes about the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and the oil spill unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico:

As this catastrophe unfolds, it is important to ask: Could we have anticipated this?  Could we have taken more effective steps to prevent it?  What lessons can we learn?

Unfortunately, government regulators were negligent, and citizens missed their opportunity to voice objections to this oil drilling project. Regulators and citizens need to do a better job!

You can read the whole essay here:  Oil spill: Regulators and citizens missed their chance

The above photo shows the coast of Guimaras Island, Philippines, after a tragic 2006 oil spill.  So far, the oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion has not reached and despoiled beaches — but this is what we could be looking at all along the Gulf.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a profound tragedy and offers an opportunity to start taking better care of marine ecosystems.  We know that rigorous environmental analysis before projects are approved, with input from citizens, holds the best chance of preventing more disasters like the BP tragedy.  ELAW works with our partners around the world to do just that.  As Mark concludes his essay:

ELAW’s work demonstrates that the environmental impact assessment process can help avoid environmental disasters. By critiquing EIAs and identifying flaws in projects, we have helped partners halt plans for seismic oil exploration in a river in India that would have jeopardized endangered river dolphins, a poorly designed island resort development in Jamaica, and a risky nuclear power reactor in South Africa.

The United States pioneered the notion of assessing environmental impacts and identifying ways to reduce them before they occur. This common sense approach can help avoid disasters. But as the case of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill illustrates, the EIA process can protect us and the environment only when environmental agencies and citizens take their responsibilities seriously.