Over the last four years, we have made significant progress working with the people of the Gulf to minimize the effects of the spill and help restore the region’s environment and economy. We have spent approximately $28 billion on response, cleanup, early restoration and claims payments. No company has done more to respond to an industrial accident. And, based on information from third-party sources, the Gulf is undergoing a robust recovery.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment Studies
Since May 2010, more than 240 initial and amended Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) work plans have been developed by BP and the Trustees to study potential injury to wildlife and habitat, and the recreational use of these resources. The NRDA data will help guide restoration efforts in the Gulf. BP is making response data as well as data collected in NRDA studies available to the public on its website http://GulfScienceData.bp.com.
Scientists are studying a range of species, including marine mammals, birds, fish and plants, to understand how wildlife and other natural resources may have been affected by the accident. Teams of experts are also studying habitats such as wetlands and beaches, with the goal of returning these resources to their baseline condition – the condition they would be in if the Deepwater Horizon accident had not occurred. In addition, experts are looking at how recreational uses of natural resources may have been affected so that lost opportunities to enjoy those activities can be addressed through restoration.
Sharing the Information
BP has made a vast quantity of environmental data collected from the Gulf of Mexico publicly available and easily accessible on the BP website at http://gulfsciencedata.bp.com. The data were collected by federal and state agencies and BP through the Deepwater Horizon Response and NRDA. Since April 2010, researchers at sea, on land, and in the air have collected an unprecedented amount of data on environmental conditions in the Gulf.
The website includes datasets on water column chemistry, oil characterization, aquatic biology, birds, offshore sediments and the shoreline, and BP continues to add more. The data on this website are posted without interpretation. Many of the future datasets include samples that are in various stages of analysis, validation and quality control review by government agencies. The Trustees have also made some of the datasets available online.
Making the information available online will enable more people to use the data for research and other studies. The website builds upon other efforts BP has made to share scientific information with the public and the research community. These efforts have included producing progress reports on the NRDA effort, posting information online, and making presentations at scientific conferences. BP also promotes scientific understanding by providing independent researchers with oil samples from the Macondo well or surrogate oil that has similar characteristics.
Studying the Gulf: Environmental Background White Papers
Abundance and Safety of Gulf Seafood
Available scientific data show that post-spill fish populations in the Gulf are robust, and the seafood being harvested is safe. This is contrary to the unsupported allegations of some that the Deepwater Horizon spill has resulted (or may yet result in) significant declines in the Gulf of Mexico fisheries, in increased abnormalities to various marine life, and in seafood contamination. To learn more about this topic, click here.
Multiple sources of data indicate that oil and dispersant compounds from the Deepwater Horizon accident did not affect oyster populations in 2010 when the spill occurred. To the extent that there was damage to oyster populations during the spring and summer of that year, the damage can likely be traced to Louisiana’s unilateral decision to open freshwater diversions, which caused freshwater to flow into oyster beds and lower the salinity in the beds to levels harmful to oysters in some areas of Breton Sound and Barataria Bay. To learn more about this topic, click here.
Despite some initial speculation that the bird population might suffer substantial impacts from the Deepwater Horizon accident and response, multiple studies demonstrate that any impacts to birds in the Gulf of Mexico were limited, and there has been a strong recovery since the spill. To learn more about this topic, click here.
Following the Deepwater Horizon accident, Louisiana officials insisted on the construction of offshore sand berms, at a cost of $360 million, purportedly to stop oil from reaching shore. In fact, as various government officials have acknowledged, this effort was costly, ineffective, and politically motivated. To learn more about this topic, click here.
Natural oil seeps in the Gulf of Mexico have allowed the ecosystem to adapt to use oil as a food source, resulting in a microbial-based hydrocarbon ecosystem that played an important role in mitigating the potential impacts from the Deepwater Horizon spill. To learn more about this topic, click here.
Despite assertions otherwise, the bulk of evidence, including analyses conducted by governmental agencies in 2010, indicates that the use of dispersants reduced the amount of oil that reached the shoreline, had limited if any impact on adult and juvenile fish and shellfish, and did not expose workers and the public to dispersant levels that would pose a health concern. To learn more about this topic, click here.
Comparison between Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Incidents
Some have compared the environmental impacts of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill to the predicted impacts from the Deepwater Horizon spill. However, an objective view of the available scientific data shows that there are fundamental differences in the site-specific factors related to the two events, such that while a greater volume of oil was discharged in the Deepwater Horizon spill, the environmental effects observed in Alaska cannot be extrapolated based on volume to those that have been or will be observed in the Gulf of Mexico. To learn more about this topic, click here.
Response vs. Restoration
The Oil Pollution Act (“OPA”) – the primary federal law that governs the Deepwater Horizon accident – provides two mechanisms for addressing any environmental impact determined to have been caused by the spill, each governed by a distinct legal regime: (1) response, governed by the National Contingency Plan (“NCP”); and (2) restoration, governed by the Natural Resource Damages (“NRD”) process. To learn more about this topic, click here.
Early Restoration Projects
Through a landmark agreement signed with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees in April 2011, BP is funding up to $1 billion in early restoration projects to speed the recovery of natural resources in the Gulf that were injured as a result of the accident. To date, BP and the Trustees have reached agreement or agreement in principle on a total of 64 projects costing approximately $832 million.
In 2012, the Trustees began work on eight Phase 1 early restoration projects estimated to cost $62 million and, in 2013, work began on two Phase 2 projects estimated to cost $9 million. In October 2014, the Trustees approved 44 Phase 3 projects, with an estimated cost of $627 million. In April 2015, the Trustees announced plans to include 10 projects valued at $134 million in the Phase 4 Early Restoration Plan, which will be made available for public review and comment prior to approval, as were plans for the first three phases. The projects selected by the Trustees are located along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and include ecological projects that restore habitats and resources, as well as projects that enhance recreational use of natural resources.
The agreement between BP and the Trustees makes it possible for restoration to begin at an earlier stage of the NRD process than usual. NRD restoration projects are typically funded only after the NRD assessment is complete and a final settlement has been reached or a final court judgment has been entered. This process often takes many years, and restoration is often delayed during that time. The early restoration framework agreement allows the parties to expedite projects to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of injured natural resources in the Gulf soon after an injury is identified, reducing the time needed to achieve restoration of those resources.
Phase 1: (Estimated cost of $62 million)
- Following a public review and comment period, the Trustees approved eight initial projects in a Phase I Early Restoration Plan issued on April 17, 2012.
- The estimated cost of the projects, including base costs and contingency allotments, is $62 million.
- Collectively, the projects will restore and enhance wildlife, habitats and the services provided by those habitats, as well as provide additional access for fishing, boating and related recreational uses.
- The Trustees began implementing the projects in 2012 in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Phase 2: (Estimated cost of $9 million)
- Two additional projects were approved in December 2012 following a public comment period. The projects are designed to improve beach nesting habitat for birds and sea turtles.
- The estimated cost of the Phase II projects, including base costs and contingency allotments, is $9 million. The projects began in 2013.
Phase 3: (Estimated cost of $627 million)
- In October 2014, the Trustees signed a record of decision to implement an additional 44 projects following a public comment period. The estimated cost of the projects is $627 million.
- The new projects are located across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and include ecological projects that restore habitat and resources, as well as projects that enhance recreational use of natural resources.
- The recreational use projects are designed to address the temporary loss of use and enjoyment of natural resources during the period when human use was reduced, including the time when some beaches and waters were closed. Although a number of the project locations were not directly injured by the accident, the projects address loss of use by providing residents and visitors with new recreational options, better access to natural resources and a greater opportunity to enjoy them.
Completing the Response
BP has spent more than $14 billion and workers have devoted over 70 million personnel hours responding to the spill and cleaning the shoreline. On April 15, 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard ended patrols and operations on the final three shoreline miles in Louisiana. This ended active cleanup throughout the Deepwater Horizon Area of Response and followed the mid-2013 transition of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi back to the National Response Center (NRC) process. Under the NRC reporting system – which has been in use for decades – the Coast Guard investigates reports of oil and identifies the source. BP remains committed and prepared to respond at the direction of the Coast Guard if potential Macondo oil is identified through the NRC process and requires removal.