BP President: Along the Gulf Coast, Resilience and Signs of Recovery

As we approach four years since the Deepwater Horizon accident, memories of that day, the tragic loss of eleven lives, and the difficult time that followed remain vivid for BP and many along the Gulf Coast.  But this year has also has brought new evidence of the progress the Gulf Coast and its people have made, and the resilience they have demonstrated in the face of those who doubted the region could recover.

Consider the region's tourism industry.  Only four years ago, a national newspaper reported that Gulf Coast tourism could suffer "up to $23 billion of losses" and take years to recover from the accident.  This prediction has not come to pass.  In fact, data from 2011-2013 shows that many areas along the Gulf Coast have experienced record-breaking tourism numbers.  The Alabama Gulf Coast broke its tourism record for the third consecutive year in 2013.  In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has pointed out the Sunshine State's "record gains" in tourism in 2013 and predicted that 2014 was on track to be "another record year."  In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently celebrated what the Times-Picayune called the Big Easy's "booming year" in 2013 – which also saw the city named one of the 21 must-see destinations in the world by National Geographic Traveler.

A similar rebound can be seen in another of the region's most vital industries – fishing.  According to preliminary data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recreational fishing landings in the Gulf in the first 10 months of 2013 were 31% higher than the average over the same period in 2007-2009.  NOAA data also show commercial seafood landings in the Gulf in 2011 reached their highest levels since 2002.  BP has helped support the seafood industry by paying or committing to pay $82 million to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi for state-led seafood testing and marketing programs.

As for the Gulf's environment, BP is working with state and federal Trustees to assess and restore natural resources injured as a result of the accident.  The company has paid around $1 billion to date to support the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process and to evaluate potential injuries and restoration options, and committed another $1 billion in an unprecedented early restoration agreement.  While detailed analysis and interpretation of NRDA data continue, a number of published studies based on responsible science are available, and the observations are encouraging.  Just last week, a study published by Auburn University researchers found no evidence that the spill impacted young Red Snapper populations on reefs off the Alabama coast.

In the four years since the accident, BP has spent approximately $27 billion in claims payments and response, cleanup, and restoration costs.  No company has done more to help a region recover after an industrial accident.

As a result of these efforts, active cleanup operations in the Gulf ended this week. While this is a significant milestone, BP has not left the Gulf, and we will keep resources in place to respond quickly at the Coast Guard's direction if potential Macondo oil is identified through the National Response Center process and requires removal.

Unfortunately, some advocacy groups refuse to acknowledge evidence of the Gulf's recovery.  In some ways, that's not surprising.  The more progress the Gulf makes, the harder it becomes for these groups to use the Deepwater Horizon accident to raise money for their causes – many of which long predate the accident, such as stopping the erosion of coastal marshlands.

In order to mitigate any environmental impacts that may remain, we must measure them, using rigorous scientific methods – not conjecture.  And to measure them accurately, we must also know the condition the resources were in before the accident.  That's what sound science is all about.

Carrying out this work – and reaching solid, evidence-based conclusions – will take time. What's clear, however, is that with the help of Gulf Coast residents, businesses and the tireless efforts of thousands of others, many of the worst economic and environmental fears of four years ago have not come to pass.

- John Mingé is chairman and president of BP America, Inc.

As appeared in the Huntsville Times, April 17, 2014.

Latest Updates

April 22, 2014

New Orleans Raised its Tourist Count in 2013, Hovering Just Short of the All-Time Record

By Mark Waller
The Times-Picayune

New Orleans attracted 9.28 million visitors in 2013, slightly besting the 2012 tally and replacing that year as the second-highest tourist count on record. An estimate of what all the visitors spent, however, showed an all-time high of $6.47 billion.

A study produced annually by the University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation revealed the latest numbers Tuesday.

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April 22, 2014

Our Biases in the Gulf’s Recovery from the Oil Spill

By Hannah Waters
Scientific American

Last month, I set out to write a fairly basic story about the Gulf oil spill and whether the oil really caused deformities in fish. I first called an oil chemist to get some background on how oil could cause those problems in the first place. From that conversation, I learned a huge amount—in particular, that everything I thought I knew about oil in the environment was pretty much wrong.

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April 21, 2014

Addressing Misconceptions of the Environmental Recovery Along the Gulf Coast

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill, evidence of resilience and recovery along the Gulf Coast continues to come to light.  Over the past week, many media outlets and advocacy groups published stories on the state of the environment in the Gulf region.  While some articles provided a balanced view of conditions in the Gulf of Mexico, many of the more alarmist media reports and headlines do not necessarily pass scientific muster.  

Some of the allegations reported by these media and advocacy groups are simply not true, and fall short of showing any reliable scientific substantiation.  Here are some of the more common misrepresentations and why they are incorrect.

April 20, 2014

Deepwater Horizon: Cleaning up

By Ed Crooks
Financial Times

Four years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the arguments over its effects still rage

“We’ve now killed the Gulf of Mexico.” That assessment of the Deepwater Horizon disaster from Matthew Simmons, a respected energy banker, seemed hyperbolic even at the time. Four years on from the explosion on the rig on April 20 2010, with tourism in the gulf region booming and recreational fish catches higher than before the accident, that apocalyptic vision looks even further from the truth.

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April 17, 2014

Breaking Down the Myths and Misconceptions About the Gulf Oil Spill

By Hannah Waters
The Smithsonian Magazine

Does oil stick around in the ecosystem indefinitely? What was the deal with the deformed fish? Can anything bad that happens in the Gulf be blamed on oil?

In the months and years following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, telling fact from fiction regarding seafood safety and ecosystem health was supremely difficult. Is Gulf seafood safe to eat or not? Are there really deformed shrimp and black lesion-covered red snapper? Will the Gulf ever be clean again?

A large part of the confusion was due to the connected, yet distinct, seafood issues surrounding the spill. Whether the seafood was safe for humans to eat was mixed with stories of the future of Gulf fisheries; harm done to wild fish was conflated with health of the seafood supply.

To clear up some of the confusion, here are seven topics of concern, some still unresolved, about the Gulf Oil Spill, brought to you by the Smithsonian Ocean Portal and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). These should help you better understand the spill’s effects on seafood and wildlife.

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