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.
The claims process has been far from transparent, and complaints have been widespread. BP’s claims lawyers (which in themselves cost more than $1.25 million each month) had no independent auditors to judge their payments, so they were essentially allowed to pay whatever they saw fit to get people to forfeit their ability to sue.
But some people aren’t taking the bait. Over 350 businesses, property owners and individuals are refusing the money offered to them and claiming more serious damages. These legal battles could play out for years, which is why most people who can’t afford representation have decided to take whatever BP was offering.
BP, which marketed itself as a green oil company that was going ‘Beyond Petroleum,’ has already paid out more money to victims and cleanup from the Gulf oil spill than it has invested in clean energy in the last decade.
Before we even understand the marine life impacts of last year’s spill, BP and other oil companies are trying to go back to business as usual drilling practices in the Gulf. And Shell, which downplayed its recent spill in the North Sea, is pushing to drill in even more remote locations like the Arctic, where there is no capability to respond to an oil spill in the icy, and often dark conditions.
The dollar signs are really only one impact of the Gulf spill. The true extent of ecological, psychological, and human health consequences cannot be justified through numbers alone.
The Gulf of Mexico is ranked as the fifth most biologically diverse marine ecosystem in the world, and studies documenting the impacts from the crude oil and dispersants on this underwater world are being kept secret because of pending lawsuits against BP.
The numbers matter, but your thoughts on the spill also matter. Speak up! What do you think the true impacts of the Gulf spill are? Should the government really be selling leases for more offshore drilling?