Five years have passed since BP’s Macondo well exploded leading to the largest offshore spill in U.S. history. The story of the Deepwater Horizon spill no longer draws much media attention, but the problems have not gone away.
U.S. readers can watch the award-winning documentary on the aftermath of the spill, The Great Invisible, tonight on PBS.
“That the Gulf Coast’s small-business owners would ultimately be stiffed by BP is counter to the spirit of a 1,033-page settlement, which was negotiated with a committee of plaintiffs’ lawyers and approved in May 2012 by the federal district court in New Orleans. In some ways, the settlement seemed almost revolutionary, especially to those who had watched the painfully protracted, 20-year claims process for the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill off the coast of Alaska. (In Alaska, after a jury awarded the plaintiffs $5 billion in 1994, Exxon spent nearly 20 years appealing the judgment and eventually got it reduced to about a tenth of the original award. By the time the payments from that judgment began in 2009, 6,000 of the original 32,000 plaintiffs were dead.)
“In 2012, as the estimated $7.8 billion settlement was put in place, BP executives boasted that most of the people who had applied for damages would now receive “full and fair compensation” without having to wait “through a lengthy trial process.” To that end, the settlement required businesses to demonstrate only that they had suffered losses during the time of the spill; there was no need to prove that the spill had actually caused those losses.
“But BP soon began to retreat from this key aspect of the settlement.” Read the article here.
Over at Truthdig, Greg Palast, reports on the coverup of “an identical, disastrous blowout halfway across the planet in the Caspian Sea,” just 19 months before the Deepwater Horizon disaster:
“But BP knew, and Exxon and Chevron knew, and the U.S. State Department knew, that just 19 months earlier another BP offshore rig suffered an identical, disastrous blowout halfway across the planet in the Caspian Sea.
In both the Gulf and Caspian blowouts, the immediate culprit was the failure of the cement, in both cases caused by the use—misuse—of nitrogen in the cement mix, a money-saving but ultimately deadly measure intended to speed the cement’s drying.
The cover-up meant that U.S. regulators, the U.S. Congress and the public had no inkling that the cost-saving “quick-dry” cement process had failed on an offshore rig until the Deepwater Horizon blew.”
Read this shocking report here.
A number of stories on the fifth year anniversary of the explosion point to the sad reality that little has changed to protect the Gulf of Mexico.
“Five years after the BP oil spill, the National Contingency Plan used by federal agencies to respond to major environmental threats still needs to be revamped to adjust to the lessons from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, said Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist who ran the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the spill.” Read more here.
What have we learned? Not much, it seems. Plans for arctic drilling are moving ahead:
“Now, after a three-year hiatus, Shell is again poised to go prospecting in one of the most volatile climates on the planet. On April 10, the Department of the Interior formally accepted Shell’s 2015 exploration plan for its leases in Alaskan Arctic Ocean. The public has until May 1 to review Shell’s plan before the agency must make a final decision on whether or not to allow the company’s drilling rigs to return to Arctic waters.
In the past, we have called for a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. The perilous conditions—including regular hurricane-force winds, errant icebergs and 30 foot swells—just make it unsafe for exploration.
Despite years of preparation and an investment of over $5 billion, Shell Oil and its contractors were grossly underprepared for safe operations in 2012. Predictably, their efforts ended in disaster.”
Read more here: What the BP Oil Disaster Tells Us About Arctic Drilling: Keep Out!
If you believe that it’s really time to move beyond oil, you may want to join the Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign.