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 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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April 15, 2014

Active Shoreline Cleanup Operations from Deepwater Horizon Accident End

$14 billion and 70-million man-hours expended, 778 miles cleaned
Milestone marks major step toward honoring BP’s commitment to the Gulf 

HOUSTON – The U.S. Coast Guard today ended patrols and operations on the final three shoreline miles in Louisiana, bringing to a close the extensive four-year active cleanup of the Gulf Coast following the Deepwater Horizon accident. These operations ended in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi in June 2013.

April 14, 2014

BP's Commitment to the Gulf Continues

This Sunday, April 20th, marks four years since the Deepwater Horizon accident and the tragic loss of 11 lives.  Since that day, BP has been determined to do the right thing – assist those who were truly harmed by the spill, help the Gulf recover, and share the lessons learned.

April 14, 2014

Positive Signs in the Gulf of Mexico: The Red Snapper

A recently published study on Red Snapper populations, conducted by researchers at the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences at Auburn University, is the latest evidence which suggests that the damage from the Deepwater Horizon accident was less than some originally predicted.  

April 14, 2014

Studies Show Early Spill Predictions Were for the Birds

When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened in 2010, many news outlets were quick to report predictions that it would spell “disaster” for present and future bird populations in the region.  Photographs transmitted around the world – some showing birds covered in oil – supported the fact that birds were indeed being impacted.