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Oil spill symposium digs deep into issues of April disaster, aftermath

Glasser BBQ

By Alyssa Cameron
Law Student Writer/3L

"What has happened? A lot. What needs to happen? A lot."

This was UF Law Professor Alyson Flournoy's response to the federal government's actions since the BP oil disaster April 20. UF Law students and faculty discussed legal and policy issues from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil spill before an audience Sept. 16 in the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center.

Law students Austin Moretz, Alyssa Cameron, Jesse Reiblich, James Davies, Carli Koshal and Fay Pappas presented their research on various aspects of the catastrophe including a comparative analysis from state and federal perspectives of the legal foundations governing spills, responses to the oil spill, recovery and restoration issues and social impacts of the disaster. UF Law faculty Tim McLendon, Alyson Flournoy, Mary Jane Angelo, Richard Hamann, Joan Flocks and Brian Mayer commented on the issues presented by the students, and Jon Mills served as moderator.

The role of policy is to minimize other disasters and see what we can do to compensate those who have been harmed, said Mills, dean emeritus, professor of law, director of the Center for Governmental Responsibility, and member of the University of Florida Oil Spill Task Force. The commentators noted the challenges in determining natural resource damages, especially among affected entities that have never been known, like species of never-before-seen squid.

Hamann highlighted the difficulties of "how to value things people have never seen before, especially things they have no economic use for." He also proposed creative uses of the restoration money to improve the Gulf of Mexico's environment - such as protecting sea turtle nesting beaches in the Caribbean, which was seriously degraded even before the spill.

"Will we step back and learn the broader lesson?" Flournoy asked, pointing out that the U.S. needs to respond to the challenge of dealing with low-probability catastrophic events.

The UF Law Oil Spill Working Group, the Center for Governmental Responsibility, and the UF Law Environmental and Land Use Law Program sponsored the informational symposium.