Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oil spill preparedness

Cleaning out some very old files, I came across this briefing paper from 2001, “Protecting U.S. National Interests in the Event of a Major Oil Spill in the Straits of Florida.”

The paper, written for Georgetown University by Coast Guard officer Victoria Huyck, notes the risk posed by tanker traffic in the Florida Straits. Since then, many have thought about the risk of Cuban offshore drilling, and now of course we face the nightmare of failure of U.S. safeguards in drilling operations in our own Gulf waters.

The Administration is passing information to Cuba, and it has given an American oil drillers’ association a license to travel to Cuba to talk with Cuban officials – measures that are fine, but minimal.

The paper points out that a normal set of preparedness measures would include exchanges between officials about marine environment issues, designation of officials to be contacted in case of emergencies, plans for action and identification of resources to be employed in case of emergency, and simulation exercises where officials test plans and procedures against a fictional scenario.

These would be good issues to discuss tomorrow when U.S. and Cuban officials meet in Washington to discuss the migration accords. AFP report on those talks here; Guardian report on Cuba bracing for damage from the current spill here.

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