It’s becoming clear that BP will get its corporate life back well before Gulf residents will have any idea what long-term effects the oil spill will have on their livelihoods and their culture. You have to ask yourself one simple question: Why?
Certainly BP would argue that it needs a little certainty “going forward,” but isn’t that exactly what’s being denied Gulf residents? The only real financial option for many spill victims is to continue filing short-term claims, but living month to month like that is anything but certain or stable.
A new study that we’ve been covering from the University of Georgia may shed a little light on what the future holds for the Gulf Coast. Samantha Joye, a highly regarded marine scientist, has released research showing that the Gulf floor is still thick with oil and littered with dead marine life.
Many stories, including a BBC report, note that she disputes an assessment by BP’s compensation fund that the Gulf of Mexico will recover by the end of 2012.
“Professor Joye told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington that it may be a decade before the full effects on the Gulf are apparent,” said the BBC. “She said they concluded the layers had been deposited between June and September 2010 after it was discovered that no sign of sealife from samples taken in May remained.”
“Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans – all of those were substantially impacted – and by impacted, I mean essentially killed,” Joye is quoted in the BBC report. “Another critical point is that detrital feeders like sea cucumbers, brittle stars that wander around the bottom, I didn’t see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives. They’re typically everywhere, and we saw none.”
Professor Joye says it will take until 2012 before we have any sort of grasp as to the impacts on fisheries and the rest of the Gulf ecosystem.
So, from a public policy standpoint, why the rush to judgment? If oil were still streaming from the ocean floor, would we be requiring people to make final judgments on their damages? Of course not, but the ongoing effects are just as real – just not as obvious.
Here’s the well-reported BBC story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12520630
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