Today marks the second anniversary of the blowout of
BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that claimed the lives of
11 workers and unleashed the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history
of the petroleum industry.
"Eleven people died on April 20, 2010 and at BP
our thoughts are with their families, friends and colleagues," Bob Dudley,
Group Chief Executive, BP, said today. "We deeply regret the loss of their
lives and we are continuing to take action to meet our commitments to the Gulf
of Mexico community and to implement what we have learned worldwide."
At the time of the explosion, BP was using the
Deepwater Horizon to drill an exploratory well at a water depth of
approximately 5,000 feet in the Macondo Prospect, located about 41 miles off
the Louisiana coast.
At 9:45 pm local time, on April 20, 2010, methane
gas from the well 18,000 feet below the sea floor expanded into the drilling
riser and caught fire. Flames engulfed the drilling rig, which burned for 36
hours before sinking.
The well ruptured, releasing about 4.9 million
barrels of oil into the Gulf over a three month period before it was capped on
July 19. The well was finally sealed on September 19, 2010.
By April 30, 2010, the oil had spread to cover 3,850
square miles (10,000 square km) and U.S. authorities closed a large part of the
Gulf to fishing. Coastlines were contaminated in five states: Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas.
In October 2011, a report by the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration found that dolphins and whales were dying at
twice the normal rate. In March, a NOAA study found that bottlenose dolphins in
Barataria Bay, Louisiana are sick after coming in contact with oily waters from
the BP spill.
Earlier this month, scientists reported finding
large numbers of mutated crab, shrimp and fish they believe to be the result of
chemicals released during the oil spill and cleanup.
Tar balls continue to wash up along the Gulf coast
two years after the spill began. Studies show the tar contains the deadly
bacteria Vibrio vulnificus.
Fishing and tourism businesses across the Gulf were
harmed and first responders as well as residents experienced health effects of
petroleum exposure such as dizziness, vomiting, nausea, headaches, and chest
On June 16, 2010, after meeting with President
Barack Obama, BP executives agreed to create a $20 billion spill response fund.
To date, roughly 100,000 claims have been filed by
individuals and businesses affected by the oil spill.
On Wednesday, BP announced that it has reached
"definitive and fully documented agreements" with the Plaintiffs'
Steering Committee to resolve the "substantial majority" of eligible
private economic loss and medical claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon
accident and oil spill.
The parties have filed for preliminary court
approval of two settlement agreements, one resolving economic loss and property
damage claims and the other resolving medical claims.
"This settlement demonstrates BP's continued
progress in resolving significant issues related to the Deepwater Horizon
accident," said Dudley. "BP made a commitment to help economic and
environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf Coast, and this settlement
provides the framework for us to continue delivering on that promise, offering
those affected full and fair compensation, without waiting for the outcome of a
lengthy trial process."
Prior to the settlement, BP had spent more than $22
billion toward meeting its commitments in the Gulf. BP has paid out more than
$8.1 billion to individuals, businesses and government entities. In addition,
Dudley says, BP has spent approximately $14 billion on its operational
Several investigations into the incident have been
held by: the U.S. Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service; the National
Academy of Engineering; by the Justice Department, by the House Committee on
Energy and Commerce and by BP itself.
They concluded that many technical mistakes and
errors of judgment were made by employees of BP; of Haliburton, which cemented
in the well; of Transocean, which leased the rig to BP; and by Cameron
International, which built the rig's blowout preventer, a fail-safe stack of
valves at the base of the well, which had a hydraulic leak and a failed
battery, and therefore failed to prevent the blowout.
In addition, President Barack Obama established the
National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling
to identify the root causes of the incident and make recommendations to restore
the Gulf and to prevent similar incidents in the future.
In its report, the
Commission found that BP had not sacrificed safety in favor of making money,
but that some decisions had increased risks on the rig.
Commission Co-chair William Reilly, a former
administrator of the U.S. EPA, said there was "a rush to completion"
on the well." He criticized poor management decisions, saying, "There
was not a culture of safety on that rig."
This week, the Commission members, volunteering
their time, issued a followup reporton progress made in fulfilling its recommendations.
Under the name Oil Spill Commission Action, the
Commission members gave the Obama administration a grade of "B," the
oil industry a grade of "C+," and Congress a grade of "D."
"Overall, we conclude that, although much more
needs to be done, the administration and industry are undertaking important
enhancements to make offshore drilling safer and to improve the nation's
ability to respond to oil spills that may occur," said Oil Spill
Commission Action. "Unfortunately, so far, Congress has provided neither
leadership nor support for these efforts."
BP has settled with private parties on their claims
but, as Oil Spill Commission Action released its assessment on April 17,
settlement negotiations with government were still unresolved.
A key Commission recommendation was to dedicate 80
percent of all assessed Clean Water Act penalties to the long-term restoration
of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. The Commission suggested that such a
dedication could result either from Congressional action or a court settlement
of claims against the responsible parties.
Gulf Coast restoration advocacy groups finally had
something to applaud Wednesday as the House of Representatives included the
RESTORE Act as it passed the Surface Transportation Extension Act. Both the
House and Senate have now passed versions of the RESTORE Act, which would
dedicate 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines from BP and the other parties
responsible for the Gulf oil spill to restoring the Gulf Coast.
23 April, 2012.