Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The emergency ends, but its effects linger

On July 15, 2010, (after 87 days) BP engineers finally found a way to cap the well and stop the spill. Oil stopped gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, but oil already leaked lingered for weeks.  Although most of the visible oil eventually disappeared, the long-term impacts on marine life – including oysters, fish, dolphins, seabirds and more — remain unclear. Scientists continue to study how much oil remains in the Gulf and its impact on marine life.

If you want to learn more about the long-term biological impacts of the spill, compare and contrast recent reports released by the National Wildlife Federation and BP.  How do different points of view  influence the interpretation of scientific results?

Ultimately, federal scientists estimated that more than 4 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over the 3 month period, making the Deepwater Horizon disaster the largest oil spill in history.

See an interactive map of how much oil spilled at “Tracking the Oil Spill in the Gulf” by the New York Times.

In January 2015, after years of scientific and legal analysis, the U.S. District Court in New Orleans determined that BP was responsible for 3.19 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon. BP had argued that it was only responsible for 2.45 million barrels of oil, considering the oil that it had removed during cleanup efforts. The federal government argued that BP should be responsible for 4.19 million barrels of oil. Under the Clean Water Act, BP could owe the American public $13.7 billion in penalties for damaging public resources with its Deepwater Horizon disaster – $1,000 to $4,300 for every barrel of oil spilled.  The amount it will pay will be determined in a future court case.

newspaperNew York Times article “Judges Ruling on Gulf Oil Spill Lowers Ceiling on the Fine BP is Facing“, January 15, 2015.

For an independent perspective on the spill’s impact, read or listen to NPR’s analysis on the spill’s five-year anniversary, “5 Years After BP Oil Spill, Effects Linger And Recovery Is Slow“.