Ten Years Since the Deepwater Horizon Exploded

Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Published Apr 19, 2020 8:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

April 20 marks 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history and killing 11 rig workers. 

An estimated 210 million gallons of crude oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. Oil slicks from the blowout covered an estimated area of 57,000 square miles (149,000 square kilometers). 

The legal battle resulting from the oil spill eventually resulted in the largest environmental damage settlement in U.S. history. BP's total costs for the explosion were around $65 billion. As a result of the criminal and civil fines, more than $16 billion was made available for the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico. Roughly $12 billion remains and will be used through 2032.

A new National Wildlife Federation report, 10 Species, 10 Years Later: A Look at Gulf Restoration after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, summarizes the latest information available about 10 wildlife species that were affected by the spill. The report also describes restoration activities underway including:

•     Restored barrier islands in Louisiana provide nesting habitat for brown pelicans and laughing gulls, as well as other coastal birds harmed by the oil spill including terns and skimmers.
•     Endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are benefiting from a project which includes funding for monitoring and protecting a nesting beach in Texas and enhancing capacity to find and assist injured sea turtles Gulf-wide.
•     Oyster restoration efforts are underway across the Gulf of Mexico. Restored oyster reefs provide habitat for dozens of species of fish and wildlife, stabilize shorelines and improve water quality.

The report also makes several policy recommendations to protect the Gulf into the future, such as improving drilling safety regulations and enforcement, fully implementing laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and transitioning to a clean energy economy.

Collin O'Mara, the National Wildlife Federation's president and CEO, said: “Ten years after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and unleashed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, wildlife and communities are still feeling its impacts. While we should be proud of the extraordinary ecological restoration process underway, we also must remain vigilant and take every precaution to prevent a disaster of this magnitude from ever happening again.”

Environmental organization Oceana has called on U.S. President Donald Trump to prevent the next BP-like disaster by stopping “the expansion of dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.”

“Offshore drilling is still as dirty and dangerous as it was 10 years ago,” said Diane Hoskins, Oceana campaign director. “If anything, another disaster is more likely today as the oil industry drills deeper and farther offshore. Instead of learning lessons from the BP disaster, President Trump is proposing to radically expand offshore drilling, while dismantling the few protections put in place as a result of the catastrophic blowout.”

Oceana has released a report to coincide with the anniversary that indicates the Gulf Coast suffered significant economic losses following the Deepwater Horizon disaster:

•     The recreation industry as a whole lost more than $500 million and more than 10 million user-days of beach, fishing and boating activity.
•     Fisheries closed and demand for Gulf seafood plummeted, costing the seafood industry nearly $1 billion.
•     Housing markets across the region experienced a decline in prices between four and eight percent that lasted for at least five years.