Fellows in the News

In a phone interview with The Huffington Post, Dennis Takahashi-Kelso, the Ocean Conservancy's executive vice president, said both Exxon and BP were reminders that plans for dealing with spills are meaningless if companies can't actually execute cleanup. Takahashi-Kelso was the Alaska Commissioner of Environmental Conservation during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and says that the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was a "very substantial improvement." But companies still struggle with execution of the response plans when a spill does happen. After the BP spill, the company was widely mocked for its spill response plans, which included animals that don't live in the Gulf like sea lions and walruses, as well as contact information for an expert who had been dead for five years at the time of the spill.

"OPA did not try to address the actual performance," Takahashi-Kelso said. Twenty-five years after the Exxon Valdez spill, he said, "We know a lot more about how to get oil out of the ground or out from underneath the Gulf of Mexico, but we have not had the kind of gains in response technology … You really have a widening gap between actual performance and the standards for having equipment and response capacity on hand."

When the BP spill happened, said Takahashi-Kelso, "It was déjà vu. The same materials, same kinds of boom, same. It does not mean that simple technology is a bad thing, but I would say that the tools available haven't changed much in 25 years."

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