The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
The Deepwater Horizon was a massive mobile drilling unit owned by Transocean and under lease to BP from March 2008. At the time of the explosion it was drilling a well in the Gulf of Mexico, 41 miles from the Louisiana coast. On April 20th 2010 the gas from the well was released onto the drilling rig where it ignited and exploded. Eleven workers from the rig died in the explosion and the oil continued to flow unabated from the resulting leak for three months before the well was eventually capped. Roughly five million barrels of oil were released by the well and around 4.2 million barrels of this oil were poured into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The extent and the location of the oil slick produced by the deepwater oil spill has threatened the ecosystem and the economy of the entire Gulf Coast region.
The US Government named BP as the responsible party in this incident, after initially taking responsibility for both the oil spill and the cleanup costs, BP later tried to apportion considerable blame to both the Transocean and the Halliburton companies.
BP claimed full responsibility for the cleanup of the spill as well as future mitigation efforts. The US military also announced plans to help BP in their cleanup efforts. The US Government also established a unified command structure to coordinate the response to the spill. A number of efforts were utilized to try and diminish the devastating effects of the oil including controlled burning of the oil as well as chemical dispersants that are sprayed onto the oil slicks in order to accelerate the process of natural dispersion.
The Government’s Response
In the weeks following the oil spill, a number of different government probes were announced into the explosion and the subsequent spill. On April 22nd 2010 a National Response Team made up of 16 federal departments and agencies responsible for coordinating emergency preparedness and response to oil pollution events. Participants in the meeting included the White House, US Coast Guard and EPA.
On May 17th 2010 the Small Business Administration deployed staff to Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi to meet with business owners and answer questions about applying for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.
On May 21st 2010, President Barack Obama created the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The seven member commission was to be a bi-partisan and diverse representation of individuals with relevant expertise.
On June 1st 2010, the Attorney General Eric H Holder Jr. announced that the Justice Department had begun both Civil and Criminal investigations. This investigation could be used to hold parties responsible for the cleanup cost as well as providing penalties and fines for injury and death of wildlife.
On June 8th 2010 The Department of Interior announced a directive to oil and gas lessees and operators implementing seven stronger safety requirements. On the same day, the Department of Energy started online access to schematics, pressure tests, diagnostic results and other data relating to the malfunction of the blowout preventer.
On June 15th 2010 President Obama gave an 18 minute speech about the oil spill that was carried on prime time by many TV networks.
On June 16th both BP and President Obama announced the creation of an independent $20 billion fund to pay for claims that resulted from the oil spill. BP also said that it would compensate oil field workers for lost wages.