Past Seminar

From the Gulf to the Arctic: What Have We Learned Since the Deepwater Horizon Spill?

Apr 17, 2014

About the Event

Almost four years have passed since the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. On April 17, RFF will host a discussion on lessons learned about restoration in the Gulf of Mexico region and whether these lessons are relevant to the development of oil and gas resources in the Arctic and other offshore areas.

Efforts to restore the ecological health of the Gulf region have moved slowly according to many observers. The RESTORE Act and legal settlements are directing billions of dollars to the region. With so much at stake, what principles should be followed to make sure that ecological restoration takes place? What progress has been seen to date, and what is the longer-run prognosis on restoration?

In the Arctic, the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea areas off Alaska's north coast rank behind only the Gulf of Mexico in estimated off-shore domestic energy resources. Reductions in Arctic sea ice have opened more possibilities for exploration and production, but it remains a challenging area, characterized by extreme weather and little infrastructure—conditions that affect both working conditions and the ability to respond to an accident in a timely way. The area is also a rich ecosystem, home to diverse species of sea mammals, millions of shorebirds, seabirds, and waterfowl, as well as abundant fish populations that are an important source of subsistence for native populations. The Atlantic coast is also of interest for oil and gas exploration. What lessons from the Gulf restoration experience should help inform how we go about drilling in the Arctic and along the Atlantic coast?


​12:30 - 12:45 p.m. ​Light lunch​
12:45 - 12:50​ p.m. Introduction and welcome
​12:50 - 1:40 p.m. ​Panel 1: Restoration of the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon Accident

Moderator: Don Boesch, President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling


  • Steve Cochran, Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Project, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Robert Gagosian, President and CEO, Consortium for Ocean Leadership
  • Leonard Shabman, Resident Scholar, Resources for the Future
1:45 - 2:30 p.m.​ Panel 2: Applying Lessons Learned for Drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic Coast

Moderator: Fran Ulmer, Chair, US Arctic Research Commission, and member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling


  • William Brown, Chief Environmental Officer, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, US Department of Interior
  • Mark Fesmire, Alaska Region Director, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, US Department of Interior
  • Beth Kerttula, Fellow, Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University, and former member, Alaska House of Representatives
  • Jacqueline Savitz, Vice President, US Oceans, Oceana
  • Christopher Smith, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, US Department of Energy
2:30 - 3:00 p.m.​ ​Q&A and adjourn


  • Phil Sharp, Fellow, The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs; former President, RFF
  • Leonard A. Shabman, Senior Fellow