INTERVIEW: Rig fire reignites off-shore drilling debate

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Just a few weeks after crews finally get hold of the disastrous deep water horizon oil rig blowout, another rig catches fire in the Gulf of Mexico. This situation was quickly brought under control, but it is once again bringing into question the legitimacy of drilling for oil offshore.

Professor Noah Sachs is a Environmental Law Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. He joins me to discuss this latest development in the Gulf.

Ryan Nobles: First, this wasn't nearly as bad as the initial problem we saw in the Gulf of Mexico, but is it appropriate to begin asking questions once again about whether or not this is an appropriate way to get oil out of the earth?

Noah Sachs: Yes, I think it is. You know, the BP disaster was a wake-up call for all of us, and this fire yesterday reminds us that we can't just hit the snooze button on this, can't go back to sleep and we have to be vigilant about improving safety standards and ending the culture of lacks safety regulation in the Gulf.

Ryan Nobles: One of the things I noticed, when you hear the talking chatter about these incidents, is that there were proponents of drilling offshore that mentioned that this particular oil well is in shallower water, so it's much easier to contain and much easier to take care of. Do you think that there will be some chatter now that we begin to drill offshore, that it should be in shallower water as opposed to the deep water issue we had with the big blowout a few months ago?

Noah Sachs: The shallow water wells are supposed to be the safer kind of wells, the ones that don't pose such big risks, but there was a major dozen yesterday where all 13 crew members had to evacuate, so for me, that highlights the risks even of the shallow water wells. And when we talk about Virginia offshore drilling, we're talking mainly about deeper water, which is concerning.

Ryan Nobles: That's part of balance, right? People don't want things right on the coast, but the further you go out, the more dangerous it becomes, right?

Noah Sachs: The deep water wells definitely pose bigger risks, but the shallow water wells also are prone to fires, accidents, and this company that had the fire yesterday also has a record of safety violations with its shallow water wells.

Ryan Nobles: We're in the process now where there's debate over this. Do you think the debate will continue where we examine the safety of this or do you think it could lead to where this gets eliminated altogether?

Noah Sachs: You know, I think the drilling is going to continue in the Gulf. I don't see that going away anytime soon but the two main questions are how can we do it safely, how can we improve the environmental reviews, and also we need a more comprehensive energy policy that begins to reduce oil consumption in the United States as a whole.

See the video at right for the full interview.

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