On April 20, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana killing eleven people and initiating the largest environmental disaster in America’s history. In the following months, over 200 million gallons of oil and almost 2 million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants were released into the Gulf of Mexico. Five years later, the communities and ecosystem of the Gulf Coast continue to feel the impacts of the BP drilling disaster.
- A total of 1,074 miles of coastal shoreline and approximately 68,000 square miles of ocean were impacted by BP’s oil.
- As documented through GRN’s continued monitoring efforts, oil, tarballs and tar mats are still surfacing on Gulf Coast marshes and beaches.
- Continued scientific studies show impacts at all levels – from fewer micro-organisms in the food chain, to significant marine deaths including dolphins.
- In Louisiana, BP’s crude and dispersants have accelerated the coastal wetland crisis due to the oiling of highly vulnerable wetland marsh.
Victories for a Healthy Gulf
In the immediate aftermath of the BP disaster, GRN took a lead role in founding the Gulf Future Coalition, a diverse network of environmental, fishing, community and social justice organizations across the Gulf Coast focused on restoring the Gulf in the wake of the BP disaster and ensuring a healthy and prosperous Gulf future. GRN and our partners in the Gulf Future Coalition were also instrumental in achieving a major victory for the Gulf – the passage of the RESTORE Act which ensures that 80% of the Clean Water Act fines from the BP disaster are directed back to the Gulf for restoration.
Despite these successes, there is still much work that needs to be done to hold BP accountable and restore the Gulf. GRN is committed to ensuring the Gulf’s environment and communities are made whole from the BP drilling disaster.
Restoring the Gulf
Since 2010, three significant sources of funding for restoration in the wake of the BP disaster have provided our communities with the opportunity for meaningful ecosystem restoration. These funding sources are the result of legal and legislative penalties paid by BP and Transocean.
- RESTORE Act: Passed in 2012, the RESTORE Act directs 80% of the Clean Water Act fines back to the Gulf States to be spent on ecosystem and economic restoration.
- Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA): As part of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, responsible companies must pay for direct damages to the ecosystem, including coastal and marine habitats and species. In advance of the final NRDA assessment, BP paid $1 billion dollars towards early restoration in 2011. Over the past four years, 10 projects have been implemented and in 2014, 44 projects were approved.
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF): In 2013, BP and Transocean plead guilty to criminal penalties as a result of the oil disaster, totaling $4.4 billion. As a result of these penalties, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – a governmental foundation tasked to issue grants for conservation - received $2.5 billion to issue grants to the five Gulf States to conduct restoration activities.
As restoration across the Gulf Coast continues, GRN is dedicated to working with our community partners to ensure that monies flowing to the Gulf are used for effective ecological and community restoration.
To that end, the GRN and our partners have created a priority list for the initial projects proposed, and soon to be selected-by, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council through the RESTORE Act. These projects recommendations represent an integrated and balanced approach to restoration that offers the greatest likelihood of achieving sustainable outcomes benefiting both human and natural communities. We offer these recommendations and the thinking behind them in the spirit of assisting the Council in the difficult job of allocating scarce resources in the best way possible.