By Reshma Gouravajhala, Managing Editor
Consider this scenario: you look out at the ocean from your favorite New Jersey beach and see something drastically different from the usual blue waves: a dark, slick substance coating the water as far as you can see—crude oil.
While this situation remains thankfully hypothetical, the probability of such an event occurring is growing. Although the decision is not official, the government wants to allow the construction of several offshore oil rigs along the East coast, specifically near Maryland and Virginia. These rigs could provide Maryland with approximately $94 million, according to Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative organization. However, this economic boon must not be the priority for companies, who, as obvious as it sounds, should instead place more focus on safety.
Given the recent oil spill fiasco, it’s in our best interest (especially as we’re a mere two hours from the coast) to ensure that we do not fall victim to another oil spill disaster. Our country has had its fair share of oil-related accidents, most notably, the Exxon Valdez incident and the recent Deepwater Horizon spill. This current spill has a circumference of 960 miles, so imagine what would happen if something went wrong near Maryland.
Accidents like these sometimes happen in the highly complex oil industry, but one would assume that companies would learn from prior mistakes and enact safeguards, especially considering that they’re working with toxic compounds.
Yet, as company higher-ups, like chief executive of British Petroleum Tony Hayward, hide behind statements like “Mistakes were made in the early stages of the crisis,” we’re left to wonder why, in this day and age, we can’t trust companies to react quickly during a crisis
Despite recent technological advancements, a dearth in safety devices that protect against underwater accidents remains. Due to such safety failures and BP’s slow reaction, 11 people tragically lost their lives and irreversible damage marks the Gulf of Mexico.
Though it is unfair to fault companies for accidents, it is ultimately their responsibility to ensure that proper safety nets are in place to avert ecological disasters—even at the risk of incurring monetary losses. Instead of a curative approach, companies would be best served if they took a preventative approach, designing effective (and fool-proof) methods to stop wayward spills.
We must realize that BP’s actions have large repercussions and can drastically alter the state of our ecosystem. A massive oil spill is not only a hazard in the immediate vicinity, but also threatens ecosystems far away.
With the possibility of future offshore drilling sites near Maryland and the Jersey shore, we need to make sure that companies have safety precautions in place that will prevent large-scale damage. We must guarantee that history does not repeat itself a third time.
Reshma Gouravajhala can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on p.9 of the June 7, 2010 issue of The Spoke.