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Loyola experts available to comment on BP Gulf oil spill anniversary as campus screens 'Dirty Energy' film

Loyola press release - April 15, 2013

As the third anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico nears, Loyola University New Orleans experts are closely tracking the historic litigation and the disaster’s overall effect on the Gulf of Mexico region. Loyola’s “Crude Awakening” website lists its many experts available for media interviews. The campus will also mark the oil spill’s anniversary in a free, public screening of the “Dirty Energy” film Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m. in Miller Hall, room 114 on Loyola’s main campus.

Presented by Loyola’s Environment Program and the Loyola Film Buffs Institute, the film highlights the personal stories of Louisiana fishermen and locals impacted by the oil spill. The director Bryan Hopkins, as well as film participants Aaron Viles, deputy director of the Gulf Restoration Network, and George Barisich of the St. Bernard Fisherman’s Association, will be on hand for a Q-and-A session with the audience following the film. The Center for the Study of New Orleans is also co-sponsoring the event.

“This is an excellent and hard-hitting film that reviews the history of the events leading up to the BP disaster and the continuing ecological and health impacts of both the blowout and the dispersant used to ‘clean up’ the oil,” said Loyola sociology professor Anthony E. Ladd, Ph.D., who will moderate the session.

Loyola experts say the aftermath of one of the worst oil spill disasters in the history of the petroleum industry continues to affect the region three years later.

“The damages awarded in the BP litigation could result in several billion dollars directed to Louisiana, thus providing a desperately needed source of funding for our coastal restoration needs,” said Blaine LeCesne, J.D., Loyola law professor who teaches tort law. “Therefore, the outcome of this case could be a major factor in the long-term sustainability of life in the entire southern region of Louisiana. The stakes could not be higher for the state.”

While LeCesne continually tracks the BP trials presided over by Loyola College of Law alumnus U.S. District Judge Judge Carl Barbier, J.D. ’70, Loyola’s biology experts are also keeping a close eye on the impacts to the Mississippi River Delta.

Professor Frank Jordan, Ph.D., chair of Loyola’s Department of Biological Sciences, is leading undergraduate researchers Tom Sevick, Jenny Simon and Samantha Stieffel on projects comparing data on the number and variety of fishes, shrimp, crabs and other creatures in the Mississippi River Delta as well as other coastal marshes before and after the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina. Their preliminary results indicate that marsh organisms have been resilient to these major disturbances.

Another Loyola biology professor, James Wee, Ph.D., is also leading ground-breaking research on the effects of crude oil on algal growth in Lake Pontchartrain water. Preliminary results suggest that algae eventually recover in contaminated water and the degree of contamination is related to the time needed for recovery.

Effects of the oil spill stretch beyond the environment. Loyola’s Center for Environmental Communication Director Bob Thomas, Ph.D., both a biologist and a social scientist, can give perspective on concerns about the ecosystem as well as the way we use it.

“The disaster changed the way we think about offshore drilling and even the way we see Louisiana’s dependence on oil,” Thomas said.

For media interviews or high-resolution photos, please contact Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs.

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LoyNews is an e-newswire produced by the Loyola University New Orleans Office of Public Affairs. LoyNews is distributed weekly to local, regional and national news media outlets, communicating the latest news and accomplishments of the university and its community.