WASHINGTON -- As part of the $4 billion settlement announced today between the federal government and BP concerning the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the National Academy of Sciences has been asked to establish a new $350 million, 30-year program on human health and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico. Below is a statement from Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences.
Statement Regarding New NAS Program on Human Health and Environmental Protection in the Gulf of Mexico
Ralph J. Cicerone
President, National Academy of Sciences
As part of today's Deepwater Horizon $4 billion court settlement between the federal government and BP, the U.S. Department of Justice has asked the National Academy of Sciences to establish a program focused on human health and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico. In response and in keeping with its mission, the NAS — a private, nonprofit institution chartered by Congress in 1863 to advise the government on matters of science — has agreed to bring its resources to bear on this important national priority.
The NAS program will fund and carry out studies, projects, and activities over a 30-year period that draw upon the scientific, engineering, and health expertise of the NAS, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council. It will seek to advance scientific and technical understanding to enhance the protection of human health and environmental resources in the Gulf Coast region including issues concerning the safety of offshore oil drilling and hydrocarbon production and transportation in the Gulf of Mexico and on the United States' outer continental shelf. The program will also aim to contribute to the development of advanced environmental monitoring systems.
The legal settlement between the federal government and BP Exploration and Production Inc. requires penalty payments (formally called "remedial order payments") by the company. These payments, to be made to a fund administered by the NAS, will total $350 million over a five-year period.
The NAS program will be conducted based on scientific merit and integrity with emphasis on freedom of inquiry and independent, nonpartisan advice and recommendations. Among its activities, the program will fund projects in the public interest not otherwise supported by private industry. BP will have no involvement in any decisions related to the NAS program.
On April 20, 2010, 11 people lost their lives in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Additional human and environmental consequences followed, some continuing to this day. Our institutions — and in particular, our committees of volunteer experts — have already contributed to the knowledge base about the accident and its aftermath.
In two studies, NAE and the National Research Council performed a detailed analysis of the Deepwater Horizon accident, examined ways to prevent rig blowouts (2010), and recommended steps that could be taken to enhance safety in offshore drilling (2011). The National Research Council also examined ecosystem services valuation for the Gulf of Mexico and the effectiveness of offshore safety and environmental management systems (both 2012). And IOM conducted a rapid-response workshop in 2010 with public health officials from the Gulf states on methods to assess the effects of the oil spill on human health.
Building on this existing work and remaining mindful of the tragic loss of life and other human and environmental consequences of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we will begin by developing a careful plan to guide the work of this long-term program.
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