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Annual Public Lectures Series > Donald F. Boesch

Scientists and Journalists:
Getting the Point Across
June 13-17, 2011

Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling
Donald F. Boesch, National Oil Spill Commission
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Summary of comments from June 13

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010 was the world's worst marine oil spill, releasing several million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the three-month period needed to contain the leak. The accident killed 11 men working on the Deepwater Horizon platform, caused extensive damage to marine wildlife, and had widespread and dramatic economic impacts on tourism and fishing throughout the Gulf.

While the U.S. has been greatly expanding deep and ultra-deep offshore drilling to maintain its oil outputs over the past decade, there has simultaneously been a lack of newer regulation and a flagging investment in the research and development necessary to safely negotiate these increasingly complex and risky production environments.

Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, was one of seven members appointed to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. At his public lecture for Metcalf Institute on June 13, he discussed the goals of the commission, the major factors leading to the accident, and their key findings and recommendations for the future. Boesch shared insights gained from working on this presidential commission and painted a picture of science in action as it responds to this environmental catastrophe. Boesch noted that the crisis tested scientists and regulators alike because of the need for exceptionally rapid responses in an uncertain environment. He also presented a vision for a safer and smarter future regarding offshore drilling.

The National Oil Spill Commission features an accessible final report to the president, an engaging multimedia presentation of the spill with the commission's assessments, as well as numerous other resources relating to the many dimensions of this accident.

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June 15, 2011