By Mira Olson, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian Environmental Minister Izabella Teixeira announced on Monday, July 26th, that the National Contingency Plan (PNC) for open sea oil exploration and production will be in place by September. The Plan takes into account new global parameters regarding deep-water drilling as influenced by the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Clean up efforts were halted this past weekend as British Petroleum (BP) employees and clean up crews experienced their first real weather scare since oil started spilling into the Gulf’s waters following the explosion of the offshore Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20th.
Tropical Storm Bonnie entered the Gulf of Mexico with Tropical Storm status on Friday, with a straight trajectory from Southern Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana, passing directly over the BP well. Drilling of relief wells was interrupted and the platform drilling ships and other clean up vessels were moved out of the storm’s path.
The storm’s force dissipated as it crossed over the Gulf, which fortunately meant for significantly less damage than expected. Winds spread the surface slick, thereby lowering oil concentrations and facilitating natural bio-degradation.
Vessels have returned and clean up efforts have since resumed, but the incident was a reminder to oil companies, investors and environmentalists around the world of the gravity of the current situation and the need to ensure higher standards in deep-water drilling.
Teixeira will meet with American representatives responsible for containing the BP oil well leak this Friday. According to the Minister, Brazil’s greatest concern is being prepared to adequately deal with disasters such as the latest situation in the Gulf, deemed completely technical and off the charts in terms of risk management around the globe.
The new contingency plan is being negotiated with the National Petroleum Agency (ANP), the Brazilian Environmental and Natural Renewable Resources Institute (IBAMA) and involved companies, such as Petrobras. A presidential decree will be signed by President Lula once an agreement is reached in order to institute the new Plan.
Teixiera told O Globo news, “Nobody ever imagined a situation like this one. And it is necessary that we work with prevention procedures. I think this is most important, that we increase our prevention measures.”
In addition to procedures to increase prevention, the Plan includes actions for environmental care in case of accidents, as well as security procedures to be adopted by the Brazilian government and the private companies it hires.
BP is now racing the clock to permanently kill the oil well as the hurricane season in the late summer months approaches. Had Bonnie remained a tropical storm or become a hurricane clean up efforts could have been seriously hampered, as all projections indicated that oil would have been pushed to currently unaffected shorelines.
Only days before a temporary cap was placed on the well that stopped the oil from gushing into the Gulf after over eighty days at a rate of thousands barrels per day. The cap created minor leaks along the ocean floor, but has been left in place to contain the predominant flow of oil while relief wells are being drilled.