On October 1, the 5 million barrel Gulf Deepwater Horizon spill finally moves on from
emergency response. The rogue well is officially dead. Most of the
booms are gone. 87% of the Gulf is open for fishing, and further
reopenings are expected. The US government is wrapping up their
National Incident Command, and Admiral Thad Allan (who ran the
response) will finally get to retire. Lisa Jackson's
Environmental Protection Agency is taking over lead responsibility
for the ongoing federal response to the spill, focussing on
assessing the damage and restoring the damaged ecosystems.
It will take many years to understand the total impact of this
spill, the largest man-made environmental catastrophe in US
history. Beach oiling is expected to recur this winter, as storms
roil contaminated sediments. Long term impacts are likely to
Reduction in fish stocks.
Human and ecological toxicity of the dispersants.
Barriers to coastal wetland restoration.
Loss of seafood markets due to lingering stigma. Etc. Etc.
The spill will undoubtedly occupy lawyers, as well as
scientists, for many years to come. According to local reporters,
six steps doomed the well. Their graphic shows
how BP repeatedly made quicker, cheaper and ultimately more
dangerous choices in the final hours before the explosion.
The spill has generated a tidal wave of litigation, and much
more is likely to follow. Criminal prosecutions are expected
against BP, and possibly against the corrupt government officials
at MMS who were supposed to regulate it. Congress is considering a
rule to earmark any fines and penalties for use in the restoration.
Hundreds of civil suits have already been launched, and many more
are expected. There is a bewildering array of possible causes of
action, from manslaughter and criminal endangerment to killing
endangered species, marine mammals and migratory birds, to
shareholder derivative suits. Legislative change is also
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