Small Businesses Face Difficulties Deploying Oil Spill Cleanup Technologies

The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee heard from entrepreneurs struggling with the evaluation process for Gulf Coast oil spill cleanup proposals at a June 17 hearing.

A movie star, an Environmental Protection Agency administrator, a university professor and an official at an oil-eating microbes company appeared before the committee to discuss utilizing small business innovation to help clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The hearing focused on the difficulty of getting Big Oil to accept and bring the potentially helpful technologies of small businesses into the oil spill cleanup process.

“We want to find out how small businesses with the technology and innovation to help clean up this oil can get those technologies and innovative ideas deployed to the Gulf of Mexico,” committee Chair Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) said. “The most recent data from the Flow Rate Technical Group estimates as much as 60,000 barrels of oil a day is escaping from the damaged well. With so much at stake along the Gulf Coast, small businesses with the knowledge of oil spill cleanup can play an active role in cleaning up this disaster, and we want to make sure they have the opportunity to do that.”

Small businesses are rarely heard and end up spending thousands—and sometimes eventual millions—when going to oil corporations and trying to find ways to sell oil cleanup products and services to in-need companies like BP.

“Please be assured that EPA will continue to work with universities, businesses and individuals to evaluate and promote innovative technology solutions to assist in the monitoring, identifying and responding to potential public health and environmental concerns,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator in the Office of Research and Development at EPA, in his written testimony.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) commented on the lasting and far-reaching effects on the country the oil spill disaster in the Gulf will have.

He noted the “spill affects us all,” citing the migratory wildlife in his home state of Maryland and questioning whether they will be able to return to the Gulf Coast this year, throwing nature even more off balance.

Heather E. Baird, vice president of corporate communications at MicroSorb Environmental Products, Inc., testified at the hearing on behalf of her company, which owns “a microbial technology—a powerful consortium of oil-eating microbes.” She spoke of the complicated evaluation process to get MicroSorb’s products to BP for use in the ongoing oil spill cleanup.

Film actor Kevin Costner testified as founder of Costner Industries and as co-founder and partner in Ocean Therapy Solutions, a company that sells oil-water separator machines.

After many years of zero buyer interest and struggling to get attention from the oil giants, Costner said BP recently bought 32 machines.

“I believe there are other small companies out there in the private sector just like us,” Costner said. “You should know that negotiating your way through the bureaucratic maze that currently exists is like trying to play a video game that nobody can master.”

Carys L. Mitchelmore, an associate professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake biological laboratory, spoke about the use of oil dispersants in cleanup efforts.

“Whatever choices are made, this unfortunate recent event in the Gulf will impact ecosystem health, local economies, food sources and recreational activities, the extent to which is currently unknown,” Mitchelmore said, according to her written testimony. “We need better information to close these uncertainty gaps that oil spill response decisions are based upon and we need it now.”

Near the close of the hearing, Costner advised that before the government’s moratorium on offshore oil drilling is lifted, oil companies should be required to have cleanup technology in place at drilling sites before work commences, so as to avoid future catastrophes.

—Reese Higgins, Office of Advocacy Intern

5 Comments
  1. John Bates says

    The life of an entrepreneur and/or small business owner is never easy. Breaking through bureaucracy will always be a challenge, but I hope something can be done in this instance to improve the oil related issues in the Gulf.

    I do have to agree with Mr. Costner’s advice that oil companies be required to have cleanup technology in place. It’s difficult to believe that there aren’t already such requirements in place. Isn’t that just common sense?

  2. Internet Marketing Service says

    It’s clear that this disaster will have an impact way beyond the environment. Hopefully these small businesses who have solutions for cleanup will be allowed to step in as soon as possible.

  3. Mark says

    I still don’t understand why it’s so hard to let the little guy in to help? Is it because the big corporations want to take the credit themselves and view the smaller ones as second-class entities not worthy of helping out?

  4. steve lusby says

    The oil spill is a very good thing for the industry just as the Valdez accident changed it this spill will do the same. This will be for the better because deep water drilling has a “learning curve” Politics has entered in as catalysts for irrational behavior such as the mention of boycotting BP products. This is a foolish response because if BP cannot pay then the boy-cotters will force all of us to pay through taxes. I for one am shifting my gas purchases to BP to help them pay for the clean-up. I urge all to play their part and do the same instead of acting like “accidents” are criminal acts. The world will be better off because of the spill and the earth has its own cleansing mechanisms. Furthermore, contrary to popular opinion the Hurricane season will have a positive overall effect on the clean-up efforts.
    Man is not in charge of this planet…

  5. Daniel Tetrault says

    I agree with the comments above: oil companies should have the technologies, polices and procedures before hand to deal with oil spills. I also agree that small enterprises should be allowed to assist with the spill clean-up! Good for the environment and the economy.

    Daniel Tetault.

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