Climate

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Didn’t Just Affect U.S. Marine Life, Lawsuit Says

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In this April 21, 2010 file photo, oil can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, as a large plume of smoke rises from fires on BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

BP may have settled in United States court after the largest marine oil spill in history polluted the Gulf of Mexico, but now a Mexican civic organization is seeking remediation for alleged ecological damages from drifting contamination affecting Mexican sea life.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Mexico City and is based on BP’s acceptance of the massive effects that followed the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010, said David Álvarez, attorney and member of Acciones Colectivas de Sinaloa, in a phone interview.

“The pollution hadn’t impacted the ecology of the Mexican area of the Gulf of Mexico,” Álvarez said in Spanish to ThinkProgress. “But the sea, air, and storms — everything together — brought this pollution to the Mexican side of the gulf.”

The lawsuit, Álvarez said, claims that oil pollution is affecting sea animals like shrimp, which were found to be suffering from malformations after the spill.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said that oil can affect marine animals in myriad ways.

“When exposed to oil, adult fish may experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment. Oil also adversely affects eggs and larval survival,” according to NOAA.

Scientists are still working to determine the long-term impacts of the oil spill, but a report from 2015 found that at least 20 animals continue to suffer from the spill.

But whether the Mexican court will pick up the case remains unclear. So far Mexican efforts to obtain damages have failed in U.S. courts, and BP is quick to note that.

“We have not seen the complaint, but claims by several Mexican states related to the Deepwater Horizon accident have been dismissed by the U.S. Federal courts‎, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal of those dismissals,” said Geoff Morrell, BP’s senior vice president of U.S. communications and external affairs, in a statement to ThinkProgress.

Indeed, in 2013 the U.S. District Court in Eastern Louisiana dismissed a lawsuit that included various Mexican states, and last month the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The Associated Press reported, though, that a lawsuit filed by the federal Mexican government in 2013 is going through the court system.

As far as domestic clean-up, the U.S. Coast Guard ended clean-up operations in the Deepwater Horizon area of response in April of 2014. BP has said that if residual oil from the spill is identified and requires removal, it will act at the direction of U.S. authorities.

Meanwhile, the corporation is paying for what happened after the deadly oil rig explosion that killed 11 people and the subsequent spill of an estimated 200 million gallons of oil. In October, BP agreed to pay $20.8 billion — the largest environmental settlement in history. The settlement included damages claimed by five gulf states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas — and more than $8 billion of the total settlement will go towards environmental restoration efforts.