It’s hard to believe that a decade has already gone by—it has been nearly 10 years since one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history—the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
The impacts of the blowout on the offshore oil rig were unprecedented, causing the death of 11 workers, sickening and killing hundreds of thousands of birds, marine mammals and sea turtles, and pouring an estimated 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
But as I look back on the aftermath of the oil disaster and what has happened to help restore the Gulf of Mexico in the span of the past 10 years, I’m reminded of some really great conservation efforts. We were able to secure more than $1 billion in early restoration settlement funds, pass the RESTORE Act and release the world’s first ever plan to restore the open ocean. That being said, we still have a lot more to accomplish in order to restore the wetlands, waters and wildlife of the Gulf.
Over the last decade, members of the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council (Trustees) and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) have commendably led the efforts in administering the largest ecological restoration effort in United States history—an unparalleled opportunity to invest in the health of the Gulf.
However, with the anniversary approaching and several years of restoration activities already completed, we now need the Trustees and the Council to give the public and Congress an accounting of restoration progress for species and habitats harmed by the disaster.
In order for Congress to make informed decisions on risks associated with offshore oil and gas drilling, it’s crucial to have access to accurate and transparent data, especially at a time when we are seeing rollbacks on important safety regulations put in place to prevent another oil disaster.
Wildlife harmed by the BP disaster live in areas that could be opened to oil drilling as soon as 2022 if Congress doesn’t act. Timely, transparent reporting on the results of restoration and lessons learned is critical to understanding the impacts of oil spills and effective restoration efforts. The Gulf can help us to set an example for future restoration efforts and for other areas struggling to combat risky offshore oil and gas development.
Our coastlines and offshore waters are at risk and we need data to help us protect them, and the communities that depend on a healthy and resilient ocean.
For nearly 87 million people, the Gulf is both home and a way of life.
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