How BP’s $18.7-Billion Oil-Spill Settlement Could Help the Gulf of Mexico

Oil company BP agreed on 2 July to pay US$18.7 billion to settle civil lawsuits over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil poured into the Gulf during the months-long crisis, the largest marine spill in US history.

(From Nature / by Richard Monastersky) — The payment will add to $14 billion that BP said it had already paid in claims, advances and settlements related to the spill.

Donald Boesch, a marine scientist and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge, spoke to Nature about BP’s settlement and what it will mean for restoration efforts and scientific studies in the Gulf. Boesch served on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. He was a witness in the US government’s lawsuit against BP for violating provisions of the Clean Water Act, and has advised the National Academy of Science’s US$500-million Gulf Research Program.

What do you think of the settlement?

The good thing from my perspective, with an interest in using the resources for meaningful environmental restoration, is that it removes a lot of uncertainty and gives an idea of what is available and how it can be used — rather than having that go on without a clear end.

Now our challenge is to make sure we don’t blow it and that we use a scientifically sound basis for design and implementation of projects, account for outcomes and advance smart restoration while also using this opportunity to grow our scientific capacity.

That could have gone on for many more years, as the NRDA [the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, which calculates the environmental costs of oil spills] is wont to do. So this resolves that and therefore provides a substantial amount of money in a time frame that could be very helpful.

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