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Media, Government Turn to TLS Scholars for Legal Analysis of Oil Spill

August 30, 2010

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Tulane Law School scholars have fielded questions from congressional aides and reporters, as well as intellectuals and investors, all seeking analysis of the blowout's multi-faceted effects.  In the media alone, faculty have responded to requests for commentary from more than 50 news outlets around the world, including CNN, The New York Times , ABC's "World News Tonight," USA Today , BBC Radio, NPR, National Law Journal (NLJ) , and Bloomberg Business Week.

In July, Professor Martin Davies graced the front page of the NLJ , which focused on the importance of maritime law issues in the unfolding disaster. "Maritime law is obscure to people on the outside," Davies stated. "It's largely ignored by lawmakers until there is a disaster of some sort, then everyone gets involved."

As disastrous situations evolve and new issues surface, reporters must dig deep for answers comprehensible to the public at large. The New York Times, for example, has spoken with and quoted several Tulane law academics in the past four months, often on multiple occasions. These include professors Robert Force, Joel Wm. Friedman, and Oliver Houck, as well as senior research fellow Mark Davis.

"We have done a fair mount of media work with the aim of helping to place the spill into an understandable environmental, legal and policy context," explained Davis, director of the law school's Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy.

Further, on August 19 The Times referenced the Payson Center for International Development, an interdisciplinary center at Tulane Law School and a key element to the Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s ambitious oil-leak mapping project. The Payson Center, alongside the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, developed the map to aid the brigade in tracking damages caused by the spill.   

Aside from the mass media, investment managers have looked to the law faculty for briefings on spill-related legal issues, and government officials have called on them as experts for consultation.

Since April, Davis has attended several policy-related engagements, meeting with senior members of the Obama administration, such as White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Nancy Sutley, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson, and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) head Jane Lubchenco.

Similarly, Professor Houck as assisted the US Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee with potential coastal legislation. "How do you develop a recovery plan for such an event?  How would you assess natural resources damages? What went wrong in the leasing process? How would you construct a worst-case analysis?" noted Houck, in explaining how the diverse array of issues related to the "story unfolding in the Gulf" is difficult to digest. "There is no end of research that goes spinning off from this."

Tulane law scholars continue to analyze the many aspects of this unprecedented situation.  Each continues to study and respond and to assist the public in its understanding.


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