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Aaron Viles, 504-525-1528 ext 207
Dan Favre, 504-525-1528 ext 209
The BP Oil Drilling Disaster Turns Two, Still Plagues the Gulf
Stories from the Front Lines – Tip Sheet with Resources and Ideas
As the two-year memorial approaches, the BP oil disaster continues, and help is still needed to restore the Gulf of Mexico’s coast, communities, and marine ecosystems. The nation will soon be looking back on two years of the country’s largest environmental disaster. Gulf Restoration Network and our partners offer a powerful on-the-ground perspective for many stories of interest.
The oil is still here, and science continues to expose many of the unseen impacts from BP’s oil disaster. Oil is surfacing in Louisiana’s wetlands, tar balls washing up on Dauphin Island are filled with dangerous bacteria, and tar balls and tar mats continue to be picked up.
Aggregating scientific reports paints a bleak picture of the state of the Gulf’s ecosystem. Dead dolphins continue to wash ashore in record numbers and dolphins in heavily-oiled Barataria Bay are extremely ill; deep water corals have been severely damaged; traces of oil have infiltrated plankton (the base of the food chain); fewer whale sharks are being spotted in the Gulf; Gulf killifish, an important bait fish, are showing gill damage (sub-lethal impacts lead to the collapse of the herring fishery four years after the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska); and fish are being caught with lesions and bacterial infections. Unfortunately, much of the science being produced is being kept confidential as evidence in the looming trial against BP.
Gulf communities continue to suffer from the BP oil disaster. People are sick from toxic exposure; fishermen in many areas have lost their livelihoods as shrimp and oysters are hard to find; and mental health problems have been widespread.
While a partial settlement has been announced between BP and the plaintiffs’ steering committee representing businesses and individuals for economic losses and health impacts, there has been no settlement for the Gulf environment. BP’s largest liability, fines under the Clean Water Act which could total over $20 billion, and many others have yet to be determined and the U.S. Department of Justice appears ready to go to trial.
Victories, Opportunities, and Federal Inaction
Unprecedented collaboration amongst organizations fighting for Gulf recovery has produced the Gulf Future Action Plan for a Healthy Gulf and many victories, but a national commitment to the Gulf is still needed. The Gulf Future Coalition’s advocacy work has been important in establishing and shaping the work of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (GCERTF) that is tasked with planning Gulf recovery from the oil disaster and the previous decades of environmental abuse. BP has been convinced to put forth $1 billion in early restoration dollars. The RESTORE Act, which would direct 80% of BP’s Clean Water Act fines to Gulf restoration, was given strong bipartisan support when it won a 76-22 vote before the full U.S. Senate!
Unfortunately, an on-the-ground perspective shows that little has been done to restore and protect the Gulf. Only $57.2 million of the $1 billion in early restoration funds is actually being doled out now. The RESTORE Act has faltered in the House of Representatives. Recommendations from the President’s Oil Spill Commission are gathering dust on the shelf, and the GCERTF plan lacks specifics and, more importantly, funding. Health concerns remain largely unaddressed.
The Gulf of Mexico needs the nation’s support. Congress should immediately pass the RESTORE Act to ensure BP’s Clean Water Act penalties go towards Gulf recovery. Citizen participation in restoration planning and efforts must be institutionalized to ensure that funds are used effectively and benefit local economies. Furthermore, establishing a Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council will give impacted communities the ability to make sure that oil exploration and production is done safely.
 Tao, Zhen; Bullard, Stephen; and Arias, Covadonga. “High number of Vibrio vulnificus in Tar Balls Collected from Oiled Areas of the North-Central Gulf of Mexico Following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Spill”, International Association for Ecology and Health, 23 November 2011. http://www.ariaslab.org/Ariaslab/Home_files/Tao,%20Bullard%20%26%20Arias,%202011.pdf
 Middlebrook, Ann et al. “Air quality implications of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 28 December 2011. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/01/04/1110052108.full.pdf+html
Bray, Daniel and Dosemagen, Shannon. “Self-Reported Health and Economic Impact Survey”, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 3 March 2011. http://www.labucketbrigade.org/downloads/2010_HealthSurvey_Complete_1.pdf
“Save Our Gulf: State of the Gulf 2011”, Waterkeeper Alliance, Save Our Gulf, September 2011. http://www.leanweb.org/our-work/water/bp-oil-spill/2011-state-of-the-gulf-report
 Jamail, Dahr. “Gulf fisheries in decline after oil disaster”, Al Jazeera, 5 March 2012.
Alexander-Bloch, Benjamin. “Gulf shrimp harvest numbers are eagerly awaited”, The Times-Picayune, 29 January 2012. http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2012/01/gulf_shrimp_harvest_numbers_ar.html
Robertson, Campbell. “Gulf shrimp are scarce this season, answers too”, The New York Times, 10 October 2011.