Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: RAPID: Mitigating Litigating: NSF RAPID Proposal to Study Social and Psychological Impacts of the 2012 BP Claims Settlement (Award# 1248118)

PI: Ritchie, Liesel (
Phone: (303) 492-4181 
Institute/Department: U of Colorado, Boulder, Institute of Behavioral Sciences 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Anna Kerttula (
Discipline(s): | Social and Human Sciences | Social and Human Sciences\Sociology |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
This RAPID research will investigate the social and psychological effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Gulf communities. The research examines how settlement and litigation processes in the aftermath of technological disaster are influencing social and psychological recovery in coastal communities along the northern Gulf of Mexico. The Primary Investigator, Liesel Ritchie, is a leading expert on the social and psychological effects of technological disasters. She has done over two decades of research, starting with her seminal research on the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, 1989. Building on an early Arctic Social Sciences RAPID award that supported the collection of data immediately following the BP spill, this RAPID will allow Ritchie and her team to gather date following the BP legal settlement and create a comparative data set with the post legal settlement data from the communities affected by the Exxon Valdez. The project responds to calls for research on community resilience to disasters by the National Research Council Committee on Disaster Research in the Social Sciences- the National Council on Science and Technology- and the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency. This research will advance knowledge regarding ways in which post-disaster processes such as litigation and the timely settlement of damage claims can facilitate or hinder community recovery. The research is responding directly to important federal issues on research on policy and practice for community disaster resilience. As pointed out by the applicant- this research is an explicit focus of the Presidents reorganization of the Homeland Security and National Security Councils and is a priority of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. In addition, research results will be used to inform local- state- and federal initiatives with respect to community resilience to both technological and natural disasters.

Logistics Summary:
The PI will compare data collected from previous research under NSF grant 0958165, on the social impacts resulting from resolution of class-action Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) to the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion that started burning in the Northern Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The overarching goal of this research is to advance theoretical and conceptual understanding of social and psychological processes associated with rapid change, and how these affect coastal communities. Researchers will compare results from this study with those from our prior RAPID grant and with longitudinal data collected following the EVOS. Researchers are particularly interested in examining whether the timely resolution (relative to the EVOS) of a large portion of the compensation for damages via the $7.8 billion “BP Settlement”5 helps to alleviate individual stress and collective trauma in coastal Alabama communities affected by the BP spill. Research findings will also provide insights into the complexities of governance and legal systems with respect to disasters and community adaptation. No arctic fieldwork is conducted.

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