Years, not months

YEARS, NOT MONTHS…. When we think about responses to disasters, we tend to consider recovery time frames in weeks and months. The BP oil spill disaster is another animal entirely. (via Atrios)

For those saddened by the scenes of thick oil washing into Louisiana’s coastal wetlands a month after the BP oil disaster began, experts on oil spills and the coastal ecosystem have some advice: Get used to it.

The crews mopping up oil on beaches and marsh shorelines this week are fighting just the first of what will probably be a series of rolling skirmishes that will last for months, if not years — even after the runaway well is finally capped. In fact, the untold millions of gallons of oil already fouling the Gulf off the Louisiana coast could stay in the area for at least a decade, and on the sea floor for more than 100 years. [emphasis added]

Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “I think we’re looking at many months of intense activity, but then years of follow-up work…. I’ve been told by the ocean experts this stuff could hang out there on the bottom of the Gulf for more than 100 years. And as long as it’s out there, it can come ashore. We might not see big black waves, but we may be seeing a smaller, but serious problem, for years and years to come.”

Meanwhile, the White House announced yesterday the creation of an independent commission to investigate the causes of the disaster, and assess culpability. It will be chaired by former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham and former EPA Administrator Bill Reilly.

Also, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told CBS News this morning that the Justice Department is considering criminal charges against those responsible for the spill and has already begun “to gather information on this.”

This comes within a week of members of the House Environment and Public Works Committee urging Attorney General Eric Holder to explore whether BP made “false and misleading statements to the federal government regarding its ability to respond to oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.”