For the final installment of this series of posts on the 12th Annual Northeast Florida Environmental Summit, I’d like to highlight the presentation by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (see also here), titled “Oil Spills & Hurricanes.” While not strictly a legal presentation, Dr. Leatherman’s talk provides an engaging expert’s perspective on the potential for a combination of disasters to strike at once along the Gulf Coast. One takes away a much better understanding of the magnitude of risk that we open ourselves up to by engaging in riskypractices in a region prone to “natural” disasters. Imagine the BP Oil Spill and Hurricane Katrina at the same time. Dr. Leatherman makes clear that this potential catastrophe as not as unlikely as some may like to believe. Policymakers would do well to be attentive to this potential in advance, although the quickly fading national memory of the BP Spill suggests that such attention won’t be forthcoming.
Along with Dr. Leatherman’s talk, readers of the blog may also want to view Professor Alyson Flournoy’s presentation, titled “The BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster: A Case Study in Regulatory Failure.” In her presentation, Alyson highlights problems of the regulatory structure governing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, drawing on the Center for Progressive Reform report that she co-authored — Regulatory Blowout: How Regulatory Failures Made the BP Disaster Possible, and How the System Can Be Fixed to Avoid a Recurrence. The panel also features a presentation by Lindsay Conlon of the World Resources Institute, author of a forthcoming assessment of governance failures leading up to the BP Spill.
This panel, taken together with Dr. Leatherman’s presentation, highlight just how preventable catastrophe may be. If the lessons of the BP Spill inform the regulation of future drilling, perhaps we will never have to experience the dual catastrophe the Dr. Leatherman outlines.