In 2010, BP made a commitment to help the people of the Gulf Coast recover from the Deepwater Horizon accident. Today, it is abundantly clear, based on data from BP, government agencies and numerous credible third-party sources, that BP has kept that commitment. BP has spent more than $29 billion so far to restore the Gulf economy and environment. No company has done more to respond to an industrial accident than BP.
The results are evident. The Gulf Coast economy has rapidly rebounded, with numerous tourism records being broken every year since the spill. Extensive scientific data collected and analyzed over the past five years show that the impact to the environment was of short duration and limited in geography, and BP has seen no data that suggest significant long-term population-level impacts on any Gulf species. As a result, the science points to the Gulf recovering more quickly than anticipated.
BP’s presence in the Gulf
BP and its heritage companies have been at work in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1950s, and it has been exploring in the deepwater Gulf for more than a quarter century. BP is the largest investor in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico over the past 10 years. BP also owns more leases in the region than any other company. The company's business activities help support more than 45,000 jobs, including 8,000 BP employees, across all five Gulf Coast states.
BP began compensating Gulf Coast residents, business owners and others with legitimate damage claims within weeks of the accident.
- Through May 2015, BP had paid $14 billion in claims, advances and settlements.
- The majority of these payments have come from a $20 billion trust (now fully funded) that BP established in 2010.
The Gulf tourism industry quickly rebounded and is now stronger than ever.
- In key tourism markets in Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and Louisiana, records have been set in lodging revenue, tourist visits and spending.
- BP has supported Gulf Coast tourism by providing $179 million for state-led tourism campaigns, while allocating another $57 million for Gulf Coast nonprofit groups and government entities to promote the tourism and seafood industries.
- BP complemented these efforts with an aggressive advertising campaign that promoted tourism across the entire Gulf Coast in 2011 and 2012.
Seafood industry recovery
BP has supported the seafood industry by providing $74 million for state-led marketing and testing programs, including $48.5 million to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi to develop programs that promote Gulf seafood and $25.5 million for seafood-testing programs. Government data show that post-spill fish populations in the Gulf are robust and Gulf seafood is safe to consume.
- Commercial seafood landings have recovered and are generally consistent with pre-spill trends. Recreational fishing harvests generally have been above pre-spill levels.
- Gulf seafood is among the most rigorously tested types of seafood, and test results show no evidence of contamination from oil or dispersants that would pose a threat to human health.
- Since May 2010, levels of oil contamination residue in seafood have consistently tested 100 to 1,000 times lower than safety thresholds established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and every sample tested has been found to be far below the FDA’s safety threshold for dispersant compounds.
Environmental conditions in the Gulf
Four key factors mitigated the accident’s environmental impact.
- The Gulf environment’s natural resilience. History shows that Gulf species and their populations can adapt and rebound from environmental disturbances. Also, because of the Gulf’s many natural oil seeps, microbes have adapted over time to feast on oil and several studies have shown that these voracious microbes consumed a significant amount of oil after the spill. According to the National Research Council, every year natural seeps release 560,000 to 1.4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.
- The distance and depth of the accident. The accident occurred more than 40 miles from the closest shore, nearly a mile below the surface and in a temperate climate. This allowed a substantial quantity of oil to dissolve, evaporate, deteriorate, photo-oxidize or be physically removed before it could reach the shoreline.
- The type of oil released. The oil spilled was a "light” crude, which degrades, dissolves and evaporates faster than most other crude oils, such as the heavier oil from the Exxon Valdez spill.
- BP’s unprecedented response. Under the U.S. Coast Guard’s direction and in coordination with other government agencies, BP’s massive, sustained response effort was highly effective at minimizing the spill’s impact on wildlife, their habitats and the shoreline.
Response and shoreline cleanup
BP spent $14 billion and roughly 100,000 workers devoted more than 70 million personnel hours responding to the spill and cleaning the shoreline.
- Of the roughly 4,400 shoreline miles ground-surveyed, approximately 1,100 miles had some degree of oiling. However, that oiling was not contiguous, with most characterized as light, very light or trace. About two-thirds of the areas were mechanically or manually cleaned.
- Oil was removed from the shoreline through extensive cleanup operations guided by technical assessments from multi-party teams comprised of government, industry and BP scientists.
- In some areas, it was determined that cleanup activities would cause more harm to the environment than leaving the material in place to naturally attenuate.
- The Coast Guard ended the last remaining active cleanup operations in April 2014 and transitioned these areas to the National Response Center (NRC) reporting process. The operational phase of the response ended on Feb. 28, 2015.
Scientific studies of residual oil
Studies conducted by multi-agency Operational Science Advisory Teams (OSAT) played a critical role in guiding cleanup operations by providing a scientific understanding of the oil’s fate and the potential effect on people and the environment.
- OSAT-1 (December 2010): Concluded that no recoverable Macondo oil remained in the water column or offshore sediments.
- OSAT-2 (February 2011): Found that residual oil in nearshore and sandy-shoreline areas was highly weathered, and that concentrations of constituents of concern were well below EPA acceptable risk levels to human health.
- OSAT-3 (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi – January 2014; Louisiana – May 2014): Found that only isolated and identifiable areas of submerged or buried oil may remain, and if further residual oil remobilizes along some
shoreline in the Area of Response, the prevailing conditions (and the locations of these re-oiling occurrences) are generally known.
Through the largest Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) ever conducted, BP and state and federal trustees are investigating the potential injury to wildlife, habitat and the recreational use of these resources.
- To date, BP has spent around $1.3 billion to fund the assessment process, including more than 240 studies in which scientists are studying how wildlife populations and the environment may have been injured.
- BP has seen no data that suggest significant long-term population-level impacts to any Gulf species. Data collection and analysis continue.
Supporting long-term research
In addition to $1.3 billion that BP has already spent to support the NRDA process, we have committed to pay $500 million over 10 years to support independent research through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). GoMRI has thus far awarded approximately $315 million in grants. The goal of the GoMRI research is to improve society’s ability to understand, respond to and mitigate the potential impacts of oil spills to marine and coastal ecosystems. BP’s funding covers grant awards and administrative costs, and the research is separate and distinct from studies conducted through the NRDA.
Approved early restoration projects
As part of BP's landmark agreement with state and federal trustees, a total of 54 early restoration projects are underway across the Gulf Coast, from marsh creation and beach restoration to fishery enhancements and state park improvements. An additional 10 projects totaling approximately $134 million have been proposed by BP and the trustees. The projects are part of BP's commitment to provide up to $1 billion in early restoration funding to expedite recovery of natural resources injured as a result of the Deepwater Horizon accident.