The BP Oil Spill Disaster
The BP oil disaster dumped nearly five million barrels of oil— the equivalent of over 200 million gallons—into the Gulf of Mexico and oiled hundreds of miles of coastline in the five Gulf states, with Louisiana's coast and wildlife receiving the greatest percentage of direct ecological damage.
The disaster's long-term effects are still unfolding. Damage done to animals and plants will have ripple effects through the food web for many years to come. Hydrocarbons from the crude oil remain in the Gulf of Mexico habitats and waters, and – we can expect based on studies of previous spills – will linger in some places for many years. The full consequences of this event will be understood more fully over time, but it is already clear that the catastrophe further damaged ecosystems that were already compromised and collapsing, especially in the Mississippi River Delta. With so many other problems, an oil spill of monumental proportions was the last thing the region needed.
Ongoing Response and Recovery
Restoring the Gulf Coast means making it better than it was before the spill. The ongoing Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process is one mechanism for evaluating damages and determining penalties on BP and other responsible parties.
Another mechanism is the Clean Water Act, under which responsible parties will be fined per barrel of oil spilled. These funds should go towards Gulf Coast restoration, as the vast majority of Americans – 83% according to recent polling – expect.
The RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) dedicates 80 percent of the penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 oil disaster toward gulf restoration, as recommended by the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The money from these fines will go towards jump starting long-term restoration.
- Environmental Defense Fund, "BP Oil Disaster – Our work on the crisis: Then and now."
- Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, "Gulf of Mexico Regional Ecosystem Restoration Strategy (Preliminary)."
- National Audubon Society, "Gulf Oil Response."
- National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, "Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling."
- National Wildlife Federation, "Gulf Oil Disaster: Wildlife in the Gulf Still Need Your Help."
- Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign, "Restoring the Mississippi River Delta."