Drilling proposal must make safety a priority

April of last year was shaping up to be just another normal month. The weather was warming up. We were preparing for finals. Larry King had just left his seventh wife.

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And suddenly, there was that really big oil spill, the one that killed 11 workers, thousands of friendly sea creatures and potentially one million jobs.

You’d think we would have lost our appetite for offshore drilling for at least a year.

But March 29, House Republicans proposed several bills calling for a slew of new oil drilling projects off the coast of Southern California, and several other locations, within the next five years.

At the moment, the Pacific Coast is free of oil rigs, safe under President Barack Obama’s wing. Republicans in the House are working to change that.

Many people’s knee-jerk reaction is probably along the lines of, “This is a horrible, horrible idea.”

That reaction might be right. So many different explanations and sketchy facts surrounded last year’s spill, it’s hard for the public to gauge whether any real changes in safety precautions have been made since then.

Still, as much as most of us hate the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and, by association, BP, some might be able to grudgingly concede the accident was an anomaly. Statistically, the chances of a similar disaster are low.

But the new bills proposed in the House hold the familiar, faintly sinister ring of oil-hungry higher-ups rushing a delicate process.

“[This is the] same pre-spill mentality of speed over safety that was held by BP and others,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) in the Los Angeles Times.

Nervous yet?

To be fair, Republicans in the House are not pushing for new drilling sites for no reason.

The proposed bills are a direct result of the recent spike in gas prices, which caused many politicians to emphasize the need to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

This might mean springing for new offshore drilling sites is actually our best bet.

But even if that’s the case, there’s no reason to rush into such a controversial and potentially dangerous decision.

Gas prices have risen before, and will almost certainly rise again. We can take a little more time to consider our options, to explore incentives for alternative energy and carpools or even to tap into our national oil reserves, though that last point is a controversial decision in and of itself.

If the Interior Department and all parties involved are confident in the strides our safety systems have made since the Deepwater Horizon spill ­— and can prove that key improvements have been made — then adding new drilling sites might be viable.

If not, the House is playing chicken on the Pacific Ocean’s railroad tracks.

High gas prices aren’t enough to warrant risking the same disaster twice if nothing has changed.

Last May, Rush Limbaugh famously proclaimed, “The ocean will take care of [the Deepwater Horizon spill] on its own if it was left alone and left out there. It’s natural. It’s as natural as the ocean water is.”

Even if we could accept for a moment that such a proclamation might be true, new offshore drilling rigs mean we’re no longer “leaving it alone.”

Without substantial improvement to our safety measures, it’s at best a gamble. At worst … well, we can look forward to Limbaugh’s attempt to make us feel better about it.


Kastalia Medrano is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism and an associate managing editor for the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Green Piece,” runs Tuesdays.

1 reply
  1. Christopher Ganiere
    Christopher Ganiere says:

    One thing you have to realize – there is no “rush into such a controversial and potentially dangerous decision” The leases must go through the federal government. California must accept the terms. The safety procedures will have to be reviewed. The benefits will be weighed against the costs. Like the nay sayers said ten years ago, “it will take ten years before any new wells start to produce.” And after the ten years of laying out money with no profits, it will be at least another ten years before the wells become profitable. Does that sound like rusting to anything to you? Even with our best technologies today, some wells end up dry or worthless.

    It would be prudent to start the process NOW, in order to reap the jobs, NOW and the oil and gas in my lifetime. As a student at USC, you may be well into your career before we see the fruits of drilling where the tar seeps through the sands of our beaches. Every one of those new jobs will assist our State out of its more than 12% unemployment – even if the rigs are abandoned before a single barrel of oil is produced..

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