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USC experts consider Santa Barbara County oil spill

Faculty consider industry safety issues, impacts on industry and tourism, and the “human factor”

Oil blackens shore near Santa Barbara
In this image from KCAL-TV, oil blackens the shore north of Santa Barbara on May 20. (Photo/Courtesy CBS Los Angeles)

With officials still battling the Santa Barbara County oil spill, what will the long-term environmental impact be on California’s coast? What does the accident say about safety culture within the oil industry? We talked with three USC experts.


Safeguards

“Nothing worked – they found out about this because people camping nearby or living nearby smelled it. Nothing happened on the part of the infrascture that could shut it down early.”

PHYLLIS GRIFMAN
Associate director of the USC Sea Grant program,
expert in marine and environmental policy


The human factor

“One of my biggest questions is: Why did it take the company so long to detect and stop the leak? This points to an important human problem in the safety culture issue.”

NAJ MESHKATI
Professor of civil and environmental engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering,
expert on industrial accidents and safety culture


Impact on local industries

“This spill will have an impact on the local tourism industry given that the sight of oil on its pristine beaches does not help, and also on local fisheries. There will be a spillover effect from the tourism impact on other local business. But I anticipate that the effect on the economy will be short-term (a few weeks) because the spill is not very large and so hopefully it will be contained soon.”

RAJ RAJAGOPALAN 
Professor of data sciences and operations at the USC Marshall School of Business,
expert in supply chain management

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USC experts consider Santa Barbara County oil spill

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