The Macondo well, now known as the site of the nation’s largest oil spill, erupted on April 20, 2010, approximately 40 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the next 50 days, BP’s oil platform, Deepwater Horizon, poured an estimated four million gallons of raw petroleum into the Gulf. Throughout the early days of the spill, accurate information in all forms was scarce, challenging a recovery response commensurate with the scale of the accident. With the well now capped, there is still incomplete information about the spill itself, as well as the temporal nature of and ecological consequences associated with the leaked oil. Also still uncalculated are the social costs that have been and will continue to be incurred by the thousands of individuals, businesses, and communities that make the Gulf coast their home.
One month after the well’s closure, given the likely continuance of oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico via super deepwater drilling and oil recovery technology, stocktaking is warranted. On September 28, 2010 we will hold a forum to review what happened, and discuss how to move ahead and learn from the experience. The symposium will feature presentations on the nature of the spill and the role of information deficit in determining the state and federal government’s and public and private sectors’ reactions to it. In addition, there will be discussion of how, with better information and more effective risk assessment and pre-disaster planning, public trust can be restored in this new era of energy exploration.