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Flirting With Disaster: the Return of Offshore Drilling

Flirting With Disaster: the Return of Offshore Drilling

Photograph by TheConduqtor

It’s been decades since a fisherman out of Montauk on Long Island told me about seeing a ship in the Atlantic Ocean east of Long Island similar to those he had seen searching for oil in the Gulf of Mexico when he was a shrimper there. I telephoned oil company after company and each gave a firm denial about having any interest in looking for petroleum off Long Island.

That was until a PR man from Gulf called back and said, yes, his company was looking for oil and gas off Long Island—and was involved in a consortium of 32 oil companies (many of which earlier issued denials).

It was my first experience in oil industry honesty—an oxymoron.

Then, after breaking the story as an investigative reporter for the daily Long Island Press about the oil industry seeking to drill in the offshore Atlantic, there were years of staying on the story. I traveled the Atlantic Coast including in 1971 getting onto the first off-shore drilling rig set up in the Atlantic, off Nova Scotia. The riskiness of offshore drilling was obvious on that rig. There were spherical capsules to eject workers in emergencies. And a rescue boat went round-and-round 24-hours-a-day. The man from Shell Canada said: “We treat every foot of hole like a potential disaster.”

You might recall seeing movies from years ago about oil drilling in the west and the drill hitting a “gusher” and it raining oil on happy workers. But on an offshore rig that “gusher” would be raining oil on the sea and life in it and then the oil would move to shore.

The Shell Canada executive gestured to the Nova Scotia shore and said peat moss was being stockpiled to try to absorb spilled oil. On Long Island, he said, “you’d use straw.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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