I've been reading the Wall Street Journal coverage of the oil spill and the response to clean it up and also heard some of the coverage on TV. I have my own thoughts on the subject and since this blog is a place for me to use my voice, I'll do so on Louisiana once again.
Having grown up in Louisiana, traveled down to the gulf shoreline (from Holly Beach to the panhandle of Florida) and married a man who for 17 years repaired, inspected and maintained the oil rigs deep underwater I may have a unique perspective.
Thinking back I am a bit surprised that I only saw a significant amount of oil/tar on the beach once and that was at Holly Beach when I was still really a child. For all of the oil that is drilled out in the Gulf, I think that is a fairly significant accomplishment. I also don't remember hearing about too many spills. As a comparison, I get tar stuck to my feet just about every time I go to the beach here in Santa Barbara, because the pressure pushes it up and it bubbles out then flows to shore.
Oil and the fisheries have been big drivers of the Louisiana economy for many years. Before the early 80's the oilfield was full of cowboys and safety wasn't always job one. However, the oil companies did change this culture and safety became really important. I certainly can't speak for BP, but overall it seems the industry has had good outcomes. Just as in healthcare there are risks and great leaders manage those risks and take action to minimize errors and loss. However, it isn't perfect.
Now, the fisherman and oil field workers have co-existed for a long time. And, I think every oilfield worker knows how big of a challenge it would be for them to get to Venice (and work) if the local fishing communities had lost confidence in their industry and its ability to protect the environment and fisheries. I suspect that oil knows they can't screw this up.
So, my perspective is that this was a truly unfortunate accident and a root cause analysis to determine what really happened needs to occur. The lessons learned need to result in corrective action and perhaps, a new regulation might be warranted. However, I caution government from jumping to regulation before this process has been completed. I expect BP to fulfill their responsibilities and to learn from this experience and to ensure that they actions are taken to minimize/eliminate the risk of this type of event from reoccurring.
One last thing. I'd like to make a personal observation, because it reflects on a largely unknown aspect of the south Louisiana culture. When I still lived in Louisiana, the fisherman had a certain look and it was largely cajunish. However, I saw a picture of a group of boat captains in the WSJ and it was different -- there were many Asians. My guess is that they are from the Vietnamese immigrants who fled Communism in the 1970s and settled in Louisiana -- especially in New Orleans East. I'm often asked why I don't have a southern accent and this is an example of why. New Orleans is really a big melting pot city. I'm sure in a few years, the picture will also include post-Katrina Mexican immigrants.