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Related Reports from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

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coverEffective Monitoring to Evaluate Ecological Restoration in the Gulf of Mexico
(2016)

Authors
Ocean Studies Board; Water Science and Technology Board; Division on Earth and Life Studies

Gulf Coast communities and natural resources suffered extensive direct and indirect damage as a result of the largest accidental oil spill in US history, referred to as the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. Notably, natural resources affected by this major spill include wetlands, coastal beaches and barrier islands, coastal and marine wildlife, seagrass beds, oyster reefs, commercial fisheries, deep benthos, and coral reefs, among other habitats and species. Losses include an estimated 20% reduction in commercial fishery landings across the Gulf of Mexico and damage to as much as 1,100 linear miles of coastal salt marsh wetlands.

This historic spill is being followed by a restoration effort unparalleled in complexity and magnitude in U.S. history. Legal settlements in the wake of DWH led to the establishment of a set of programs tasked with administering and supporting DWH-related restoration in the Gulf of Mexico. In order to ensure that restoration goals are met and money is well spent, restoration monitoring and evaluation should be an integral part of those programs. However, evaluations of past restoration efforts have shown that monitoring is often inadequate or even absent.

Effective Monitoring to Evaluate Ecological Restoration in the Gulf of Mexico identifies best practices for monitoring and evaluating restoration activities to improve the performance of restoration programs and increase the effectiveness and longevity of restoration projects. This report provides general guidance for restoration monitoring, assessment, and synthesis that can be applied to most ecological restoration supported by these major programs given their similarities in restoration goals. It also offers specific guidance for a subset of habitats and taxa to be restored in the Gulf including oyster reefs, tidal wetlands, and seagrass habitats, as well as a variety of birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals.

coverStrengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry
(2016)

Authors
Transportation Research Board (TRB)

TRB Special Report 321: Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry offers recommendations to industry and regulators to strengthen and sustain the safety culture of the offshore oil and gas industry. A supplemental product titled Beyond Compliance provides an executive-level overview of the report findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

The committee that prepared the report addresses conceptual challenges in defining safety culture, and discusses the empirical support for the safety culture definition offered by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the nine characteristics or elements of a robust safety culture, methods for assessing company safety culture, and barriers to improving safety culture in the offshore industry.

The committee’s report also identifies topics on which further research is needed with respect to assessing, improving, and sustaining safety culture. Download the Report in Brief for a summary of the report.

coverApplication of Remote Real-Time Monitoring to Offshore Oil and Gas Operations
(2016)

Authors
Transportation Research Board (TRB)

TRB Special Report 322: Application of Remote Real-Time Monitoring to Offshore Oil and Gas Operations provides advice to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) of the U.S. Department of the Interior on the use of remote real-time monitoring (RRTM) to improve the safety and reduce the environmental risks of offshore oil and gas operations. The report also evaluates the role that RRTM could play in condition-based maintenance (CBM), and how BSEE could leverage RRTM into its safety enforcement program.

The report makes recommendations to BSEE about how RRTM could be incorporated into BSEE's regulatory scheme. The recommendations also suggest that BSEE monitor the development of RRTM technologies in relation to risk-based goals governing offshore oil and gas processes.

As a part of this study, TRB held a workshop and issued TRB's Conference Proceedings on the Web 17: Application of Real-Time Monitoring of Offshore Oil and Gas Operations: Workshop Report, which summarizes presentations made during the committee’s workshop in Houston, Texas, on April 20–21, 2015. 

A Report in Brief for this publication is also available.

coverResponding to Oil Spills in the U.S. Arctic Marine Environment
(2014)

Authors
Division of Life and Earth Studies (DELS); Ocean Studies Board (OSB); Polar Research Board (PRB); Transportation Research Board (TRB); Marine Board

U.S. Arctic waters north of the Bering Strait and west of the Canadian border encompass a vast area that is usually ice covered for much of the year, but is increasingly experiencing longer periods and larger areas of open water due to climate change. Sparsely inhabited with a wide variety of ecosystems found nowhere else, this region is vulnerable to damage from human activities. As oil and gas, shipping, and tourism activities increase, the possibilities of an oil spill also increase. How can we best prepare to respond to such an event in this challenging environment?

Responding to Oil Spills in the U.S. Arctic Marine Environment reviews the current state of the science regarding oil spill response and environmental assessment in the Arctic region north of the Bering Strait, with emphasis on the potential impacts in U.S. waters. This report describes the unique ecosystems and environment of the Arctic and makes recommendations to provide an effective response effort in these challenging conditions. According to Responding to Oil Spills in the U.S. Arctic Marine Environment, a full range of proven oil spill response technologies is needed in order to minimize the impacts on people and sensitive ecosystems. This report identifies key oil spill research priorities, critical data and monitoring needs, mitigation strategies, and important operational and logistical issues.

The Arctic acts as an integrating, regulating, and mediating component of the physical, atmospheric and cryospheric systems that govern life on Earth. Not only does the Arctic serve as regulator of many of the Earth's large-scale systems and processes, but it is also an area where choices made have substantial impact on life and choices everywhere on planet Earth. This report's recommendations will assist environmentalists, industry, state and local policymakers, and anyone interested in the future of this special region to preserve and protect it from damaging oil spills. 

coverReducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts
(2014)

Authors
Division on Earth and Life Studies (DELS); Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB); Ocean Studies Board (OSB) 

Hurricane- and coastal-storm-related losses have increased substantially during the past century, largely due to increases in population and development in the most susceptible coastal areas. Climate change poses additional threats to coastal communities from sea level rise and possible increases in strength of the largest hurricanes. Several large cities in the United States have extensive assets at risk to coastal storms, along with countless smaller cities and developed areas. The devastation from Superstorm Sandy has heightened the nation's awareness of these vulnerabilities. What can we do to better prepare for and respond to the increasing risks of loss?

Reducing Coastal Risks on the East and Gulf Coasts reviews the coastal risk-reduction strategies and levels of protection that have been used along the United States East and Gulf Coasts to reduce the impacts of coastal flooding associated with storm surges. This report evaluates their effectiveness in terms of economic return, protection of life safety, and minimization of environmental effects. According to this report, the vast majority of the funding for coastal risk-related issues is provided only after a disaster occurs. This report calls for the development of a national vision for coastal risk management that includes a long-term view, regional solutions, and recognition of the full array of economic, social, environmental, and life-safety benefits that come from risk reduction efforts. To support this vision, Reducing Coastal Risks states that a national coastal risk assessment is needed to identify those areas with the greatest risks that are high priorities for risk reduction efforts. The report discusses the implications of expanding the extent and levels of coastal storm surge protection in terms of operation and maintenance costs and the availability of resources. 

Reducing Coastal Risks recommends that benefit-cost analysis, constrained by acceptable risk criteria and other important environmental and social factors, be used as a framework for evaluating national investments in coastal risk reduction. The recommendations of this report will assist engineers, planners and policy makers at national, regional, state, and local levels to move from a nation that is primarily reactive to coastal disasters to one that invests wisely in coastal risk reduction and builds resilience among coastal communities.

Learn more in this Report in Brief, slideshow, and video featuring some of the report's authors.

coverAn Ecosystem Services Approach to Assessing the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico
(2013)

Authors
Division on Earth and Life Studies (DELS); Ocean Studies Board (OSB) 

As the Gulf of Mexico recovers from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, natural resource managers face the challenge of understanding the impacts of the spill and setting priorities for restoration work.  The full value of losses resulting from the spill cannot be captured, however, without consideration of changes in ecosystem services--the benefits delivered to society through natural processes.

An Ecosystem Services Approach to Assessing the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico discusses the benefits and challenges associated with using an ecosystem services approach to damage assessment, describing potential impacts of response technologies, exploring the role of resilience, and offering suggestions for areas of future research. This report illustrates how this approach might be applied to coastal wetlands, fisheries, marine mammals, and the deep sea -- each of which provide key ecosystem services in the Gulf -- and identifies substantial differences among these case studies. The report also discusses the suite of technologies used in the spill response, including burning, skimming, and chemical dispersants, and their possible long-term impacts on ecosystem services.

cover

Best Available and Safest Technologies for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations: Options for Implementation
(2013)

Authors
Transportation Research Board (TRB); Marine Board

Best Available and Safest Technologies for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations: Options for Implementation explores a range of options for improving the implementation of the U.S. Department of the Interior's congressional mandate to require the use of best available and safety technologies in offshore oil and gas operations.

In the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Congress directs the Secretary of the Interior to regulate oil and gas operations in federal waters. The act mandates that the Secretary “shall require, on all new drilling and production operations and, wherever practicable, on existing operations, the use of the best available and safest technologies which the Secretary determines to be economically feasible, wherever failure of equipment would have a significant effect on safety, health, or the environment, except where the Secretary determines that the incremental benefits are clearly insufficient to justify the incremental costs of utilizing such technologies.”

This report, which was requested by Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), also reviews options and issues that BSEE is already considering to improve implementation of the best available and safest technologies requirement.

coverTransportation Research Board Special Report 309: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems
(2012)

Authors
Transportation Research Board (TRB); Marine Board (MB)

TRB Special Report 309: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems recommends that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) take a holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness offshore oil and gas industry operators' Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) programs. According to the report, this approach should, at a minimum, include inspections, audits by the operator and BSEE, key performance indicators, and a whistleblower program.

SEMS is a safety management system(SMS) aimed at shifting from a completely prescriptive regulatory approach to one that is proactive, risk based, and goal oriented in an attempt to improve safety and reduce the likelihood that events similar to the April 2010 Macondo incident will reoccur.

According to the committee that produced the report, it is not possible for a regulator to create a culture of safety in an organization by inspection or audit; that culture needs to come from within the organization. To be successful, the tenets of SEMS must be fully acknowledged and accepted by workers, motivated from the top, and supported throughout the organization and must drive workers' actions.

The report also notes that BSEE can encourage and aid industry in development of a culture of safety by the way it measures and enforces SEMS. The Committee believes BSEE should seize this opportunity to make a step change in safety culture by adopting a goal based holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness of SEMS programs.

In recommending a holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness of SEMS programs, the report explores in detail SEMS' role in helping to develop a culture of safety, highlights the pros and cons of various methods of assessing the effectiveness of a SEMS program, and investigates existing approaches for assessing the SMS programs of various U.S. and international regulatory agencies whose safety mandates are similar to that of BSEE.

coverApproaches for Ecosystem Services Valuation for the Gulf of Mexico After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Interim Report
(2012)

Authors
National Research Council (NRC)

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon platform drilling the Macondo well in Mississippi Canyon Block 252 (DWH) exploded, killing 11 workers and injuring another 17. The DWH oil spill resulted in nearly 5 million barrels (approximately 200 million gallons) of crude oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). The full impacts of the spill on the GoM and the people who live and work there are unknown but expected to be considerable, and will be expressed over years to decades. In the short term, up to 80,000 square miles of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were closed to fishing, resulting in loss of food, jobs and recreation.

The DWH oil spill immediately triggered a process under the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) to determine the extent and severity of the "injury" (defined as an observable or measurable adverse change in a natural resource or impairment of a natural resource service) to the public trust, known as the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA). The assessment, undertaken by the trustees (designated technical experts who act on behalf of the public and who are tasked with assessing the nature and extent of site-related contamination and impacts), requires: (1) quantifying the extent of damage; (2) developing, implementing, and monitoring restoration plans; and (3) seeking compensation for the costs of assessment and restoration from those deemed responsible for the injury.

This interim report provides options for expanding the current effort to include the analysis of ecosystem services to help address the unprecedented scale of this spill in U.S. waters and the challenges it presents to those charged with undertaking the damage assessment.g in loss of food, jobs and recreation.

The DWH oil spill immediately triggered a process under the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) to determine the extent and severity of the "injury" (defined as an observable or measurable adverse change in a natural resource or impairment of a natural resource service) to the public trust, known as the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA). The assessment, undertaken by the trustees (designated technical experts who act on behalf of the public and who are tasked with assessing the nature and extent of site-related contamination and impacts), requires: (1) quantifying the extent of damage; (2) developing, implementing, and monitoring restoration plans; and (3) seeking compensation for the costs of assessment and restoration from those deemed responsible for the injury.

This interim report provides options for expanding the current effort to include the analysis of ecosystem services to help address the unprecedented scale of this spill in U.S. waters and the challenges it presents to those charged with undertaking the damage assessment.
coverMacondo Well Deepwater Horizon Blowout: Lessons for Improving Offshore Drilling Safety
(2011)

Authors
National Academy of Engineering (NAE); National Research Council (NRC)

The blowout of the Macondo well on April 20, 2010, led to enormous consequences for the individuals involved in the drilling operations, and for their families. Eleven workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig lost their lives and 16 others were seriously injured. There were also enormous consequences for the companies involved in the drilling operations, to the Gulf of Mexico environment, and to the economy of the region and beyond. The flow continued for nearly 3 months before the well could be completely killed, during which time, nearly 5 million barrels of oil spilled into the gulf.

Macondo Well-Deepwater Horizon Blowout examines the causes of the blowout and provides a series of recommendations, for both the oil and gas industry and government regulators, intended to reduce the likelihood and impact of any future losses of well control during offshore drilling. According to this report, companies involved in offshore drilling should take a "system safety" approach to anticipating and managing possible dangers at every level of operation -- from ensuring the integrity of wells to designing blowout preventers that function under all foreseeable conditions-- in order to reduce the risk of another accident as catastrophic as the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. In addition, an enhanced regulatory approach should combine strong industry safety goals with mandatory oversight at critical points during drilling operations.

Macondo Well-Deepwater Horizon Blowout discusses ultimate responsibility and accountability for well integrity and safety of offshore equipment, formal system safety education and training of personnel engaged in offshore drilling, and guidelines that should be established so that well designs incorporate protection against the various credible risks associated with the drilling and abandonment process. This book will be of interest to professionals in the oil and gas industry, government decision makers, environmental advocacy groups, and others who seek an understanding of the processes involved in order to ensure safety in undertakings of this nature.
coverInterim Report on Causes of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Blowout and Ways to Prevent Such Events
(2010)

Authors
National Academy of Engineering (NAE); National Research Council (NRC)

The National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council have released the interim report of the Committee on the Analysis of Causes of the Deepwater Horizon Explosion, Fire, and Oil Spill to Identify Measures to Prevent Similar Accidents in the Future. The interim report includes the committee's preliminary findings and observations on various actions and decisions including well design, cementing operations, well monitoring, and well control actions. The interim report also considers management, oversight, and regulation of offshore operations.

At the request of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Academy of Engineering/National Research Council (NAE/NRC) committee is examining the probable causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, fire, and oil spill in order to identify measures for preventing similar harm in the future. The study is organized under the auspices of the NAE and the NRC's Transportation Research Board, through its Marine Board, and the Division on Earth and Life Studies, with assistance from the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences.

The study will address the performance of technologies and practices involved in the probable causes of the Macondo well blowout and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. It will also identify and recommend available technology, industry best practices, best available standards, and other measures in use around the world in deepwater exploratory drilling and well completion to avoid future occurrence of such events. The full scope and schedule for this project are available on our Current Projects Web site.

The study does not address any issues associated with the subsequent fire and release of oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico, such as the rescue and fire response, plans for the spill response, spill response and clean up, or the related consequences of the oil spill on the environment or human health.

An NAE website provides information about this study and links to information about committee meetings and the composition of the committee. After meetings are held, information presented to the committee is posted on the site. The site also provides an opportunity for public comment on the topics of the study.
coverResearch Priorities for Assessing Health Effects from the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: A Letter Report
(2010)

Authors
Institute of Medicine (IOM)

It is as yet uncertain how the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will affect the health of clean-up workers and volunteers, residents, and visitors in the Gulf. The IOM recommends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focus on researching psychological and behavioral health, exposure information to oil and dispersants, seafood safety, communication methods for health studies, and methods for conducting research in order to better understand and mitigate the effects on human health for this oil spill and for future disasters.
coverReview of the Proposal for the Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study: Highlights from the September 2010 Workshop: Workshop Report
(2010)

Authors
Institute of Medicine (IOM)

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is unprecedented not only in its size but also in the use of chemical dispersants and controlled burns to remove the oil. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is designing a study to investigate the health effects on clean-up workers. The IOM held a workshop to review and comment on NIEHS's study protocol.
cover
 
Assessing the Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on Human Health: A Summary of the June 2010 Workshop
(2010)

Authors
Institute of Medicine (IOM)

From the origin of the leak, to the amount of oil released into the environment, to the spill's duration, the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill poses unique challenges to human health. The risks associated with extensive, prolonged use of dispersants, with oil fumes, and with particulate matter from controlled burns are also uncertain. There have been concerns about the extent to which hazards, such as physical and chemical exposures and social and economic disruptions, will impact the overall health of people who live and work near the area of the oil spill.

Although studies of previous oil spills provide some basis for identifying and mitigating the human health effects of these exposures, the existing data are insufficient to fully understand and predict the overall impact of hazards from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the health of workers, volunteers, residents, visitors, and special populations. Assessing the Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on Human Health identifies populations at increased risks for adverse health effects and explores effective communication strategies to convey health information to these at-risk populations. The book also discusses the need for appropriate surveillance systems to monitor the spill's potential short- and long-term health effects on affected communities and individuals.

Assessing the Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on Human Health is a useful resource that can help policy makers, public health officials, academics, community advocates, scientists, and members of the public collaborate to create a monitoring and surveillance system that results in "actionable" information and that identifies emerging health risks in specific populations.
 cover

On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research (Third Edition)
(2009)

Authors
Policy and Global Affairs(PGA); Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy

The scientific research enterprise is built on a foundation of trust. Scientists trust that the results reported by others are valid. Society trusts that the results of research reflect an honest attempt by scientists to describe the world accurately and without bias. But this trust will endure only if the scientific community devotes itself to exemplifying and transmitting the values associated with ethical scientific conduct.
 
On Being a Scientist was designed to supplement the informal lessons in ethics provided by research supervisors and mentors. The book describes the ethical foundations of scientific practices and some of the personal and professional issues that researchers encounter in their work. It applies to all forms of research--whether in academic, industrial, or governmental settings-and to all scientific disciplines.

This third edition of On Being a Scientist reflects developments since the publication of the original edition in 1989 and a second edition in 1995. A continuing feature of this edition is the inclusion of a number of hypothetical scenarios offering guidance in thinking about and discussing these scenarios.
 
On Being a Scientist is aimed primarily at graduate students and beginning researchers, but its lessons apply to all scientists at all stages of their scientific careers.