An oil spill is a catastrophic event, no matter how big or small. And in the Gulf coast area, which is home to some 14 million people, the damages can be felt in all sectors of life, from local businesses to people's general health. With this, the BP liability trial is set to begin on Monday.
This catastrophe was the biggest, most costly, and overall detrimental accidental oil spill in all of petroleum history. BP is urging the judge to rule that it cannot be penalized for the millions of gallons of oil that spewed from its blown out well in April 2010. However, the counter claim by the U.S. government is that BP deliberately used cost cutting methods that inadvertently led to safety hazards, resulting in the eventual oil spill. If this is proven true, the cost for BP could be in the ballpark of $21 billion.
Is this too harsh if negligence is to blame? Not if it can be proven beyond doubt. In April of 2010, a major explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon, an ultra deepwater drilling rig, that caused the offshore spill. This was no ordinary spill, as oil continued to flow into the gulf for three months, causing an unprecedented disaster. It was the "Hurricane Katrina" of oil spills. Over 53,000 barrels of crude oil escaped into the gulf everyday creating a 210 square mile contaminated zone, where little to nothing could survive.
The explosion itself killed 11 men and injured 17 others. Close to 7,000 marine animals died, crippling tourism and other industries. One major fear was that the oil itself would spread so far near the coast that it would contaminate the coastlines and even the drinking water supply. And sadly, the Corexit dispersant used to protect the beaches from the oil was 52 times more toxic than the oil itself. Thus, many people claimed to be experiencing symptoms such as vomiting and chest pains from being exposure to the toxic chemicals. This is not including the fact that the dispersant and crude oil mixture had carcinogenic properties.
The fact of the matter is our society cannot function without oil. Personally, I am not against drilling practices. But in this case, something went tragically wrong. If the judge finds that BP was negligent in their safety practices, they should pay the appropriate damages. With eight U.S. national parks threatened, close to 9,000 animal species, including birds, fish, turtles, and crustaceans, the cost could be astronomical for BP. But when the entire Gulf Coast is threatened, including people and businesses, the cost to life is that much greater.
To date, BP has paid over $7 billion in damages in the spill's aftermath. And the way it looks now, this could only be the beginning. If something like this happens again, the Gulf Coast as we know it might never recover. It could become a toxic cesspool, and with it, a gorgeous, lush coastland, with its unique way of life, could vanish.