Tony Hayward, CEO of oil giant BP, is betting that the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster will be “very, very modest.” Even though a million gallons of crude have flooded into the Gulf of Mexico every day since the exploratory rig exploded nearly a month ago, Hayward told Fox News sister network Sky News on Tuesday that he is largely unconcerned:
I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest. It is impossible to say and we will mount, as part of the aftermath, a very detailed environmental assessment as we go forward. We’re going to do that with some of the science institutions in the U.S. But everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall environmental impact of this will be very, very modest.
“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean,” Hayward told the Guardian last week. “The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”
Independent experts estimate that about 32 million gallons of toxic oil have spewed from the broken well, partially broken up into invisible plumes by more than 600,000 gallons of toxic chemical dispersants, produced by a company with close ties to BP.
Already, toxic sludge has started to ooze onto Louisiana’s fragile wetlands, and oil globs and tar balls have been found on barrier islands and beaches along the northeastern Gulf Coast. The federal government closed 19 percent of the Gulf to fishing on Monday when the slick doubled in size, caught by the Loop Current that is now dragging oil to the Florida Keys. Dozens of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have washed up dead.
It will be years before the toxic legacy of this disaster is known to a region defined by its coasts. According to scientists, this is “the worst time” of year that this disaster could have begun, as this is the peak of the spawning and nesting season for marine wildlife in the Gulf, from fish to turtles to dolphins. BP officials say they will be able to shut down the well blowout by July, well after the start of the hurricane season.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.