UT Austin Faculty Experts to Discuss Galveston Bay Oil Spill

March 23, 2014

As crews work to clean up oil from Saturday’s fuel leak in Galveston Bay, Texas experts offer insight into ramifications of spills for companies and the general public. Specialists on petroleum production, Texas wildlife, environmental law and policy from The University of Texas at Austin are available to help evaluate the incident and broader energy issues raised by the spill. This list below will likely be expanded. Please check back for the latest contacts. 

Energy Supply and Policy

Tad Patzek
Professor and Chair, Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
512-232-8368
patzek@mail.utexas.edu
Patzek has engaged in the studies of complex systems, focusing on the ultra deepwater offshore operations. In January 2011, Patzek became a member of the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee for the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).  He briefed the U.S. Congress on the BP Deepwater Horizon well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. For the last four years, Patzek’s research has emphasized the use of unconventional natural gas as a fuel bridge to the possible new energy supply schemes for the U.S.

Paul Bommer
Senior Lecturer, Department of Petroleum Engineering
512-471-1207; 512-468-9934 (cell)
pmbommer@mail.utexas.edu
Bommer specializes in oil field cementing operations and design, blowout prevention and control, and the mechanics of gas-liquid separators. He has written and commented extensively on petroleum production practices and the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which resulted in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. History.

Michael Webber
Deputy Director, Energy Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
512-475-6867
webber@mail.utexas.edu
Webber teaches and conducts research on energy and environmental issues. He also serves as associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy and co-director of the Clean Energy Incubator. Webber can comment on policy issues raised by the oil spill as well as broader environmental issues.

Economic Impact

Sheila Olmstead
Associate Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
512-471-2064
sheila.olmstead@austin.utexas.edu
Olmstead’s research topics include climate and energy policy, especially with regards to the application of market-based environmental policy instruments. Olmstead can comment on the economic impacts of the spill such as effects on ship channel traffic and migratory birds. She can also discuss the trade-offs and risks involved in transporting oil via different means.

Wildlife and Environmental Law

Melinda Taylor
Senior Lecturer, School of Law
512-232-3641
mtaylor@law.utexas.edu
Taylor is executive director of The Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration and Environmental Law at The University of Texas School of Law. Prior to joining the faculty, she was the director of the Ecosystem Restoration Program at the Environmental Defense Fund, where she managed a staff of attorneys, scientists and economists engaged in projects to protect endangered species and water resources across the United States. Taylor has also served as deputy general counsel of the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C., and was an associate at Bracewell & Patterson in Washington, D.C.

Robin Doughty
Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography and the Environment
rdoughty@austin.utexas.edu
Doughty’s research interests include wild animals and birds. He has written several books on the feather trade and the origins of bird protection, recovery of the endangered whooping crane, the mockingbird as the Texas state bird, and the impacts of early settlers on wildlife in the Lone Star State.  He is available to discuss the effects of the Galveston Bay oil spill on Texas wildlife, particularly birds.

Environmental Ethics

Sahotra Sarkar
Associate Professor, Departments of Philosophy and Interactive Biology
sarkar@mail.utexas.edu
Sarkar is an environmental philosopher who specializes in the conservation of biological resources through habitat protection. He is available to discuss environmental ethics in relation to offshore drilling.

For more information, contact: University Communications, Office of the President, 512 471 3151.