PORTLAND, Maine — Environmental advocates who gathered in Monument Square for the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill on Friday said America hasn’t learned enough from the disaster.
“Offshore oil-drilling is dirty and dangerous, and cleanup and safety measures in place today are just as ineffective as they were two years ago,” said Ben Hayman, a senior organizer for the international nonprofit group Oceana. “Despite the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there are renewed calls to expand offshore drilling, including along the East Coast.”
On April 20, 2010, an oil rig owned by British company BP exploded, allowing 200 million gallons of oil to pour into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months.
On Friday, a group of volunteers in yellow hazardous materials suits held a mock oil spill in Portland’s public square, scrubbing toy marine animals on a blue tarp representing water. A slick, black plastic covered a portion of the tarp to represent the oil.
On the opposite side of an awning-covered display table, another blue tarp was covered with rows of small, paper windmills, illustrating what Oceana representatives described as the ideal alternative to offshore oil drilling. Demonstrators offered paper windmills to passers-by to take home as mementos.
The Portland event was the northernmost locale in a string of oil spill anniversary events held by Oceana along the East Coast as far south as Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Hayman said Oceana disagrees with President Barack Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, seeking increased fossil fuel extraction in addition to development of renewable energy sources.
“We think it should be the ‘best of the above,’” Hayman said, arguing that a “fully developed” offshore wind program would create 164,000 jobs and provide enough electricity to power almost half of the Eastern Seaboard.
Hayman also cited a Department of Energy study that found additional offshore oil drilling would reduce gas prices by only 3 cents a gallon by 2030.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation out there about the expansion of oil drilling and its impact on gas prices,” he told the Bangor Daily News on Monday.
Earlier in the week, Oceana released a report giving an F grade to the U.S. government’s long-term reaction to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in part criticizing federal regulators for not insisting on upgrades to standard oil-rig safety and cleanup technology, as well as for implementing new safety rules that “fail to address several widely acknowledged regulatory needs.” Among them are modified “testing requirements to better reflect real-world conditions” and mandated redundancies in safety mechanisms aboard the offshore oil rigs.