Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Oil Spills and Accidents on the Rise 10 Years After Deepwater Horizon Accident, CAP Analysis Finds
Press Release

RELEASE: Oil Spills and Accidents on the Rise 10 Years After Deepwater Horizon Accident, CAP Analysis Finds

Washington, D.C. — A decade after the devastating Deepwater Horizon accident, oil spills and worker accidents are on the rise, according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that began on April 20, 2010, prompted the Obama administration to enact a series of reforms to improve oil rig safety—reforms that the Trump administration has since rolled back. A CAP review of government data finds that oil spills and injuries from offshore drilling are now on the rise, threatening to erase the progress made in the 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“Offshore drilling has become more dangerous since the Trump administration weakened safety regulations and cut back federal inspections and enforcement,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at CAP and author of the column. “By cutting corners on offshore drilling safety, the Trump administration is making a dangerous and unacceptable gamble on the lives of American workers and the health of coastal communities.”

In 2018 and 2019, the two years after the Trump administration initiated its full-blown rollback of environmental and safety standards, the amount of oil spilled per barrel produced on the Outer Continental Shelf increased sixfold compared with the previous two years—2016 and 2017—according to CAP’s review.

Worker safety has also suffered. A CAP review of data reveals that the number of injuries per hour worked on oil and gas facilities on the federal Outer Continental Shelf increased 21 percent in 2018 and 2019 compared with the previous two-year period of 2016 and 2017.

The Trump administration has also cut back on federal enforcement of offshore drilling safety standards. The CAP review finds that federal inspectors from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement took 38 percent fewer enforcement actions against offshore oil and gas operators from 2017 to 2019 than they did from 2014 to 2016.

Read the column: “10 Years After Deepwater Horizon, Oil Spills and Accidents Are on the Rise” by Matt Lee-Ashley.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at or 202-478-6327.