Leading researchers discuss potential for oil disaster in Canada

The risk of a catastrophe on the scale of BP’s offshore Deepwater Horizon disaster happening in Canada poses a real threat to people’s health and the economy.

At the Oil: Slick Suits and Sinister Scenarios symposium tomorrow, leading researchers in risk, disaster management, ethics and the environment will provide insights into the murky world of oil and the need to prepare for a potential disaster.

The symposium will take place, from noon to 2pm, in the Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson Building, Keele campus. Everyone is welcome.

York law, governance and ethics Professor Mark Schwartz (right) will discuss the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused the largest off shore spill in the history of the United States. Schwartz will present an ethical critique of BP and speak about the importance of ethical crisis management and the lessons for Canadian oil producers.

Environmental studies Professor Gail Fraser (left) will compare the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its estimated impacts on marine birds to that of a much smaller spill in offshore Newfoundland. She will argue that cumulatively smaller, more frequent oil spills off the coast of Newfoundland have likely resulted in higher seabird mortalities compared to the very large single spill in the Gulf of Mexico, because oil breaks down more slowly in cold water and the species composition is different.

Fraser underscores the importance of having baseline data to estimate the impact of oil spills and discusses current challenges in NL regarding access to information relevant to oil spills.

Emergency management Professor Ali Asgary will examine the Canadian emergency preparedness and response capacities and gaps in dealing with large-scale oil spills. He is co-investigator of a recently completed project, “Real-time Detection of Oil Spills”, funded by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, which developed an expert system for rapid risk assessment of pipeline based oil and gas spills to be used by emergency response teams.

Right: Ali Asgary

Asgary’s areas of research include disaster and emergency response, business continuity, development and applications of geographic information systems and agent-based modelling in disaster and emergency management.

Fraser’s research focuses on issues around the ecology and management of avian wildlife, and the environmental management of the extractive industries of oil and gas.

Schwartz is co-author of the textbook Business Ethics: Readings and Cases in Corporate Morality (McGraw Hill, 2000) and the author of Corporate Social Responsibility: An Ethical Approach (Broadview Press, 2011).

Joanne Jones, a professor of audit and management information systems in York’s School of Administrative Studies, will moderate the discussion.

The event is presented by the School of Administrative Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

For more information, call ext. 20091 or e-mail tarawlo@yorku.ca. To register online, visit York’s School of Administrative Studies website.