Looking back a little more than a year into the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, three things are clearly evident: first, BP believes the worst of the environmental and economic damage to the region has past; second, new evidence shows that the company is clearly mistaken; and third, BP’s main priority is to improve their ruined public image.
Earlier this month BP claimed that the Gulf Coast economy is now booming:
Multiple lines of evidence demonstrate that, to the extent that portions of the Gulf economy were impacted by the spill, recovery had occurred by the end of 2010, and that positive economic performance continues into 2011, with 2011 economic metrics exceeding pre-spill performance.
BP argued that “there is no basis to assume that claimants, with very limited exceptions, will incur a future loss related to the spill.” Echoing this sentiment of “economic progress,” BP’s claims administrator Ken Feinberg proudly stated, “I’ve used just over $4 billion, (and) I don’t envision a flood of new claims.” Feinberg used only one fifth of the money set aside to assist victims of the spill, and has recently closed down eight regional offices because he believes the claims have almost stopped.
Reality paints a bleak picture for the future of the region. Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that “crude oil continues to wash ashore along the Gulf of Mexico coast a year after” the BP oil rig exploded and 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed into the environment. Furthermore, the agency stated that “23 percent of the oil the government couldn’t account for may have settled to the bottom of the sea or remained suspended in the water as tart balls that will eventually wash ashore.” Even worse, the NOAA reported that as of July 9, “close to 500 miles of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida were still contaminated with oil from the spill.”
Local communities are challenging BP’s blanket claims of “positive economic growth” in 2011. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a field hearing in Pensacola, Florida to discuss recovery efforts and the economic impact the spill has had on the small tourism-based economy. The overall concern, echoed by state officials and business members alike, was that of long-term environmental and economic “uncertainty.”
BP recently released a statement that it will “voluntarily impose a series of additional offshore drilling standards for its Gulf of Mexico operations.” These new “self regulated” rules are potential steps in the right direction to ensure that another environmental disaster does not occur in the region. Without enforcement, however, they amount to little more than an attempt to repair the negative image of the company.
A year out, BP is still battling with the initial fact that they caused the “worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.”
-Samantha Sanfilippo, CAP Summer Intern, and resident of the Gulf Coast region.