Five years ago today, oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig was still gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico, impacting countless wildlife, oiling shorelines and devastating coastal communities from Texas to Florida. Shortly after the disaster occurred, both President Obama and BP promised to restore the Gulf of Mexico, and today marks the single biggest step forward in restoring the Gulf.
Today BP and the five Gulf states have agreed to an unprecedented $18.7 billion settlement to resolve the outstanding fines that BP still owes for damaging the Gulf. While details are still emerging, here are some of the highlights:
- $5.5 billion to resolve Clean Water Act civil penalties, with some portion of that money being directed to each of the five Gulf states. This includes approximately $1.3 billion that will go to the RESTORE Council to implement comprehensive restoration from Texas to Florida, from the coast to the blue water. Read more about the RESTORE Act and restoration here.
- $8.1 billion (including $1 billion down payment BP already provided for early restoration) to resolve natural resource damages that are directly related to the impacts of the oil disaster. We are particularly pleased to see that this allocation includes $1.24 billion for projects in the open ocean! This means that we will be able to restore impacts beyond the shore, where the disaster began and where we continue to learn about troubling impacts to fish, corals and dolphins.
- $350 million to continue assessing the damage caused by the disaster.
- Finally, $5 billion will go to the Gulf states to resolve economic claims.
One of Ocean Conservancy’s key concerns is that our government leaders are able to address long-term impacts from the disaster that we might not know about today. We are pleased to see a dedicated restoration reserve to address injuries documented after the settlement agreement. We know from other oil spills that understanding the full impacts to wildlife and habitats can take decades to fully understand, and we need to make sure we have money set aside to address impacts if and when they emerge.
After five years of work from Ocean Conservancy’s staff and our many partners, we are relieved to see one chapter of our Gulf restoration work end and a new one begin. One thing is clear: there is still a lot of work to be done, and it will take all of us working together to ensure that all of this money is spent in the spirit it was intended and in a way that honors the lives that were lost in the tragic events of April 20, 2010. It’s time to get down to the business of restoring the Gulf and create a legacy that we can all be proud of.
Thank you for all you have done to help protect the Gulf of Mexico, a national treasure and my home.