This week, Gulf residents and the nation are marking 6 years since the beginning of the BP oil disaster. On April 20, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana, claiming eleven lives and causing devastating harm to Gulf Coast communities and our ecosystem. Six years later, we remember the eleven lives lost, and stand together as one Gulf by continuing to push for comprehensive ecosystem restoration and a transition away from the destructive oil and gas industry.
“The long term impacts of BP’s oil continue to affect the region’s people and environment,” says Cyn Sarthou, Executive Director of the Gulf Restoration Network. “Recent studies raise serious concerns regarding the health of the Gulf of Mexico. The jury is still out on how systemic and long-lasting the impacts of the disaster on the Gulf’s natural resources will be.”
An April 2016 study documented high rates of reproductive failures in bottlenose dolphins in heavily oiled areas across the Gulf Coast, linking these problems to BP’s oil. Other studies have found a 10 million gallon “bath mat” of oil and a reduction in marine life in the area surrounding the BP blowout.
“Finalized in early April, the $20.8 billion settlement with BP includes $16.7 billion that will go directly towards restoration efforts in the Gulf,” notes Jordan Macha, Gulf Policy Analyst for Gulf Restoration Network. “While these monies are an important step in recovery, it’s a long road to restoration. We must remain vigilant to ensure that funding flows to the best and most deserving projects.”
The funds from the BP settlement will begin disbursement in 2017.
Although the BP disaster was one of the latest and greatest environmental threats to the Gulf, this region has long been an energy sacrifice zone. In Louisiana alone, the Coast Guard’s National Response Center receives around 1,500 oil and/or chemical spill notifications with an average volume of 330,000 gallons spilled annually.
The 2010 BP oil disaster was a catastrophic example of industry failure, but it is not the only one. In the face of myriad threats from the oil and gas industry, Gulf residents are rising up against new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this week, dozens of Gulf Coast residents rallied at a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) oil lease public meeting in New Orleans and another BOEM hearing in Houston. Just last month, hundreds of people gathered in New Orleans to disrupt new offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Six years after the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, the industry is still fighting hard against safety and oversight improvements, ” says Raleigh Hoke of Gulf Restoration Network “Time after time, the oil and gas industry has made it clear that it is either unwilling or unable to address its environmental and community impacts, not to mention its role in global climate change. Ending new offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico is a first step in tackling climate change and making the transition to a more stable, sustainable and equitable economy for our region.”
This blog post was collaboratively written by GRN's Shona Clarkson, Jordan Macha, and Raleigh Hoke.