The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Deepwater Horizon Two Year Anniversary: Progress and Setbacks

Image of Deepwater Horizon fireOn April 20, 2010 while drilling in the Macondo oil field 40 miles off the Louisiana coast, the semi-submersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon suffered a huge methane gas explosion and resulting fire that caused the rig to sink two days later. Eleven crew members died during the event that resulted in the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Flowing uncontrollably for 84 days, the Macondo well gushed out an estimated 4.9 million barrels or 206 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, spread to almost 1,100 miles of Gulf coastline, and crippled the Gulf fishing industry. As we mark the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the environmental cleanup, accident investigations, and compensation claims continue. Happening at a critical time as the United States strives to become less dependent on foreign oil, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill provides a grim reminder of the potential environmental and economic costs of pushing further into both the physical and technological frontier for energy needs. A recent Congressional Research Service report highlights the ongoing federally-administered activity, as well as executive and congressional action surrounding oil spill recovery efforts. Most notably, the report discusses the progress of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), which is beginning its planning phase for Gulf restoration efforts. On the Congressional front, the report discusses restoration funding through the creation of a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund through the PIONEERS Act passed by the House of Representatives in February 2012. The fund will be primarily funded by penalties, settlements, and fines resulting from the Deepwater Horizon event. The Oil Spill Commission Action (OSCA), which evolved from the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has just released a report titled Assessing Progress: Implementing the Recommendations of the National Oil Spill Commission that measures progress of the former commission's actions. OSCA notes that while the public administrators and oil industry are improving policies and conditions to make offshore drilling safer, Congress has been lacking in providing sufficient funding and has been largely reactive in its policies. Additionally with the growing demand for offshore oil pushing drilling rigs into frontier areas such as the Arctic, there has not been enough investment in infrastructure to safely drill in these vulnerable areas. The Homeland Security Digital Library has a wealth of resources relating to the Deepwater Horizon event, oil spill recovery and management, and deep water drilling policy. For more information on the Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and its most recent cleanup strategy titled "Gulf of Mexico Regional Ecosystem Restoration Strategy" click here. To access RestoreTheGulf.gov, the official U.S. Government's portal devoted to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery, click here.