Blog Tags: Deepwater Horizon
After the Gulf oil spill happened, people demanded numbers. They wanted to know animal mortality numbers and dollar signs to understand the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history.
The problem is that the extent of this spill was so huge and so many animals and people were affected that it’s hard to quantify. But some recent numbers help show how widespread the impacts have been.
So far BP has set aside $20 billion for spill impacts, and it has just been released that they paid out $5 billion of that amount in damages to over 200,000 people in the last year, with an additional $1.5 billion going to cleanup and restoration.
Many more people are claiming damages, with a total of close to 1 million claims being processed from people in all 50 states and 36 different nations, with thousands more claims coming in each week.
How could a spill in the Gulf possibly affect over a million people in such far reaching places? The answer is that the Gulf of Mexico isn’t just an oil and gas depot, it is used for many activities besides drilling that employ thousands of people in fishing and tourism related jobs. As a result, the economic impacts of the spill have been felt around the world.
At last year’s TEDxOilSpill conference in Washington, D.C., Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless tackled the 10 biggest myths he hears about offshore drilling. His presentation is especially poignant this week considering the government's decision on Friday to re-open the Western Gulf of Mexico for new oil and gas exploration for the first time since the spill.
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It hasn’t yet been one year since the worst accidental oil spill in history was finally stopped, but the Interior Department announced Friday that it will open more than 20 million acres of the Western Gulf of Mexico to new oil and gas exploration and development.
Oceana’s senior campaign director Jackie Savitz’s responded to this outrageous news in the New York Times:
“Rushing this lease sale puts marine ecosystems at risk before the ink is even dry on the impacts of the BP spill,” said Jacqueline Savitz of the international conservation group Oceana. She added that the ocean energy bureau “appears to be caving to intense pressure from the oil industry to return to ‘business as usual,’ without regard for the extraordinary risks to already imperiled marine animals.”
Reports following the Deepwater Horizon spill have highlighted the impacts on already struggling species, such as endangered sea turtles and bluefin tuna. Many commercially important fish were spawning at the time of the spill, and studies to measure the impacts have not yet been completed. Until the status of those populations is clarified, it’s impossible to determine the impacts of this lease sale, a step required prior to the sale.
The Interior Department should not proceed with new lease sales until the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill are better understood, and until we improve our readiness to prevent and respond to major oil spills.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Less than a year after the Deepwater Horizon gusher was finally sealed, oil companies are claiming they can drill safely in the Arctic Ocean, an even more fragile and forbidding environment than the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, our government seems to be suffering from amnesia, too.
This month, Shell Oil received a conditional approval from the federal government to drill four exploratory wells next summer in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. The company claims that it can end a gushing spill like the Deepwater Horizon in just 43 days and clean up 90 percent of oil lost.
These claims aren’t based in historic experience and have little scientific evidence to back them up. Crews were only able to recover 10 percent of the oil escaping the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, and only 8 percent of oil from the Exxon Valdez spill.
The most recent oil spill drill in the Beaufort Sea was in 2000 and was described as a “failure.” Mechanical systems like skimmers and booms in calm but icy conditions simply didn’t work. The technology has not improved since then. Just watch this video of a failed cleanup test:
This is the third in a series of ocean infographics by artist Don Foley. These infographics also appear in Oceana board member Ted Danson’s book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”
Last year’s Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was not an isolated event. The exploding rig was especially tragic, but the truth is that the oil industry produces pollution every day, as today’s infographic illustrates:
The small spills associated with oil extraction, transportation, and consumption add up to about 195 million gallons every year. That’s as much as one Deepwater Horizon gusher.
As we saw in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, extracting oil from the seafloor is dangerous business. Everyday drilling and extracting result in chronic leaks that add up to 11 million gallons of oil pollution annually.
Transporting oil is also a major source of pollution. Sometimes ships intentionally discharge what’s known as oily ballast water—the thousands of gallons of dirty water used to keep a giant transport ship stable. Otherwise, despite their best attempts, moving oil around inevitably results in spills to the tune of 44 million gallons a year.
One year ago today, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 rig workers and triggering the largest accidental oil spill in history.
When all was said and done in July, it had spewed more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf, threatening sea turtles, whale sharks, spawning bluefin tuna and countless other species of fish and marine life.
I am a Californian now, but I was born a child of the desert. My parents raised me in Arizona, where my father worked as an archaeologist, and my mother took me to wander the scrubby ravines near our home. She saw beauty everywhere. As a small boy I just saw great opportunities for hide and seek.
Once a year, for our summer vacation, we would drive to the beach. I still remember the great anticipation I felt as our station wagon crested the last mild incline that would give us a view of the Pacific Ocean. It filled me with an awe I still feel today, and as an adult I’ve always lived a window away from its expanses.
But my appreciation for the ocean is complicated by the knowledge that we risk it every day for oil. Last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was a bellwether tragedy for the oceans. We know less about the deep sea than we do about the surface of Mars – just as we still don’t know the true cost of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history a year later.
A week from today marks the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill, and the effects of the spill on the gulf’s ecosystems and wildlife are beginning to come into view, though the full effects won’t be understood for years.
This week the New York Times published an overview of the latest findings. The good news is that although miles of marsh are still oiled and tar balls continue to wash up on beaches, the Gulf of Mexico can thank its oil-eating bacteria for digesting some of the crude oil and the methane gas.
Not all the news is so good, however. Here are some of the latest findings about Gulf wildlife:
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana. You can follow him on Twitter @Oceana_Andy.
Nearly a year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began a three-month-long oil spill. In the later months of last year, after the gushing oil well had finally been capped, some people – politicians and TV talking heads, really – tried to convince Americans that the Gulf had recovered.
It’s true that we still don’t know the extent of the damage wrought by last summer’s oil disaster. The subsurface gusher created a whole new scientific challenge when it came to understanding exactly what was going on. And we’ve said that it would be years before we understand the true cost of the disaster.
Just recently we got a sign that not is all well in the Gulf. Since January, more than 80 bottlenose dolphins have turned up dead – and half of those are newborn or stillborn calves. The government is calling it “an unusual mortality event.”
Some sad news today -- the bodies of 20 infant and stillborn dolphins have been discovered since Jan. 20, most of them during the past week, on islands and beaches from Gulfport, Mississippi to Gulf Shores, Alabama, in what may be fallout from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
That’s about 10 times the number normally found in the two states during this time of the year, which is calving season in the region. None of the carcasses showed any obvious signs of oil contamination; necropsies are being performed and tissue samples taken to determine if toxic chemicals from the oil spill may have been a factor in the deaths.
We’ll let you know if we hear any more details. In the meantime, you can take action to prevent another oil disaster by asking Congress to stop subsidizing the oil industry and transition to clean energy.
- Act: GrubHub, Take Shark Fin Off the Menu! Posted Wed, December 17, 2014
- Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Gain New Protections Posted Mon, December 15, 2014
- Coral Reefs Turning Silent from Overfishing, Other Human Impacts Posted Thu, December 11, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Task Force Releases Recommendations on Seafood Fraud, Sea Otters Critical to Healthy Marshes, and More Posted Tue, December 16, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: UN Urges Mangrove Protection, Warming Pacific Waters Could Unlock Layer of Methane, and More Posted Fri, December 12, 2014