Two years ago an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico took the lives of 11 men and spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. It took 9,700 vessels, 127 aircraft, 47,829 people, nearly 2 million gallons of toxic dispersants, and 89 days to stop the gush of oil. But the work to restore the ecosystem and Gulf economy has only just begun.
The regional oil and gas industry hasn’t skipped a beat despite claims from Big Oil and drilling advocates in Congress that the moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed in the wake of the spill devastated the Gulf economy. The New Orleans Times-Picayune found that oil-fueled economies in the Houma area are humming along just fine. And according to a recent Reuters analysis, Gulf drillers will be busier this year than at any point since the spill, adding eight new deepwater rigs and bringing the total count to 29, just shy of pre-spill levels.
But even though BP’s slick new ads show sparkling beaches and flourishing marshes, the perception that everything is fine in the Gulf is far from the truth. Last week Garret Graves, top coastal advisor to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the state “still has 200 miles of oiled coast,” including “very clear, retrievable oil in coastal areas,” and called the current conditions “unacceptable.”
While the Obama administration took steps to strengthen offshore drilling safety and oversight, much remains to be done. Tourism in the region has rebounded this year but the Gulf Coast is still struggling with the lingering effects of the spill and will likely continue to do so for decades to come.
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