The Deepwater Horizon disaster, 13 years ago, gushed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and caused estimated losses to the commercial seafood industry at nearly $1 billion. It may happen again…

Leading up to the 13th anniversary (April 20) of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history — the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill — Oceana published a report which outlines how President Joe Biden can still deliver on this commitment of no new leases for offshore drilling, despite mandates in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).  The president’s campaign promise to prevent new offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters is yet to be fullfilled, and Oceana, which is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation, fears that a disaster similar to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill may happen in the future.

“It’s as if we learned nothing from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “We know that when oil companies drill, they spill. It’s not a matter of if there will be another spill, but when. And those spills bring immediate economic and environmental devastation to our coastal communities.”  

The 13-page report, “A Simple Solution: How President Biden Can Meet Offshore Clean Energy Goals and Prevent New Offshore Drilling” is clear: 13 years ago, in 2010, 200 million gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico following an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The explosion killed 11 workers and set off the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Toxic oil polluted 1,300 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline, from Texas to Florida. The disaster killed hundreds of thousands of animals, including birds, fish, and sea turtles. Commercial and recreational fishing in the Gulf shut down for months. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster devastated Gulf ecosystems, communities, and economies, and many of those impacts are still felt today.

 Offshore drilling remains dirty and dangerous

A 2019 study showed the sea floor near the wellhead was still barren of the life typically found there. Many marine mammal populations will take decades to recover, if they fully recover at all. Bottlenose dolphins were some of the most severely impacted marine mammals. Experts estimate that it will take 30 to 50 years for some groups of dolphins to recover in the Gulf of Mexico.

The report now published finds that President Biden can still prevent new oil and gas leases in 2024 and beyond through his decision on the Five-Year Plan, and he can also exceed his goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind development by 2030. The report also finds that offshore drilling remains dirty and dangerous, with significant safety shortcomings that will not prevent another disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

“More than two years into his presidency, Biden has yet to uphold his promise on offshore drilling,” said Diane Hoskins. “Continued leasing for dirty fossil fuels harms our health, pollutes our air and our environment, and exacerbates the climate crisis while worsening environmental injustice plaguing marginalized communities along the coast. President Biden must lead on climate, and that starts with preventing new leases for offshore drilling.” 

 Protecting 3.3 million American jobs

Oceana notes that most American voters do not want to expand offshore drilling,  and points to a recent poll released by the coalition group Protect Our Coast, which includes local and national environmental, business, and faith groups that advocate for the prevention of new offshore drilling leases. The poll found that voters support a proposal to prevent new leases for offshore drilling by a net margin of 16 points. Additionally, two-thirds of voters said they would prefer the administration increase clean energy like wind and solar over offshore drilling for oil and gas.  

The report from Oceana and a public petition asking for support note that “Permanently protecting our coasts from new drilling would protect the roughly 3.3 million American jobs and $250 billion in GDP reliant on industries like tourism, recreation, and fishing.”

Follow the link to download the full report A Simple Solution: How President Biden Can Meet Offshore Clean Energy Goals and Prevent New Offshore Drilling.  

Have you listened to this article via the audio player?

If so, send us your feedback around what we can do to improve this feature or further develop it. If not, check it out and let us know what you think via email or on social media.

Jose Antunes is a freelance journalist who writes about technology, software, photography and video.

Join the Conversation