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Deepwater Horizon explosion & spill: Coverage of first anniversary, Apr 2011

On 20 April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, owned by Transocean and operated by BP, suffered an explosion, caught fire and subsequently sank.  The resulting leak produced the largest marine oil spill in history.  On the anniversary of the explosion, many articles and reports reflected on the impacts of the disaster; a selection of these follows.  For full coverage of the human rights impacts of the disaster, see our portal, "Human rights impacts of oil pollution".

Deaths of rig workers

"Father of Deepwater Horizon Victim: The Blowout Was 'Inevitable' Due to BP’s Lack of Safety Precautions", Democracy Now!, 20 Apr 2011:
"One year ago today, 28-year-old Gordon Jones was one of 11 workers killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded April 20. Today we speak to his father, Keith Jones, who has been critical of the operators of the rig. 'BP and Halliburton and Transocean peeled back layer after layer after layer of safety protections, one after another, until this blowout was inevitable,' says Keith Jones."

 

 

Loss of livelihoods & threat to adequate standard of living

"Voices from the Gulf: 'One Year Later, We’re in the Same Situation as Last Year'", Democracy Now!, 20 Apr 2011:
"Fishermen and shrimpers have reported record losses in sales and fear the spill will cause long-term damage to marine life and the economy of the region. Many residents report problems with receiving compensation claims from BP. We’re joined by David Pham of Boat People SOS, a national Vietnamese American organization working with fishing communities impacted by the BP oil spill in Alabama. We also speak with Tracie Washington, president of the Louisiana Justice Institute in New Orleans."

 

Environmental health impacts

"Community organizer Stephen Bradberry: Making things right after the BP oil spill", interview by Jay Kernis, In the Arena, CNN, 20 Apr 2011:
Stephen Bradberry, Executive Director of the Alliance Institute in New Orleans: "The primary health care need across the affected gulf coast region is access.  Coastal communities across the region have traditionally been without local clinics due to financial constraints within the states. Although this was highlighted as a problem following the 2005 hurricane season, the states had not made clinics available by the time of the BP oil disaster. And I would like to be clear that when I say health care, I am speaking of physical and mental...If the question is whether or not BP has done enough to make things right by spending $16 billion dollars the answer is no...BP can put forth monies to assist coastal communities in receiving access to health care by funding local clinics; provide funds to local and regional foundations to ensure that organizations working directly with impacted families can provide much needed services..."

"Voices from the Gulf: 'One Year Later, We’re in the Same Situation as Last Year'", Democracy Now!, 20 Apr 2011:
"The Louisiana Environmental Action Network has gathered personal testimony from disaster response workers, as well as divers, fishers, coastal residents, dealing with unusual health problems since the BP spill. Clayton Matherne was working as an engineer in the area when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded.
CLAYTON MATHERNE: I can barely even get up out of bed. I have trouble breathing. I can’t remember anything. I’ve lost half my eyesight. I cough up and spit up blood all the time. I shake and tremble all the time. I can’t even open a bottle of water or even hold a bottle of water in my hands. The chemical poisoning causes headaches so bad that it puts pressure on the nerves in my brain and causes my body to be paralyzed.
AMY GOODMAN [host]: I want to turn to Tracie Washington, president of the Louisiana Justice Institute, working with communities of color throughout the Gulf. Tracie, how typical is this description?
TRACIE WASHINGTON: You know, it is unfortunately what researchers or, you know, the government would call just anecdotal. I don’t consider it just anecdotal, because you hear some level of physical harm from many of the fishers down there, whenever you go down to Plaquemines or lower Jefferson Parish. Now, there are different levels, obviously, Amy, but people are hurting. And unfortunately, what they’re hearing back from government officials is, 'Well, there is no actual connection,' or 'We can’t make any connection between the oil spill and the effects of the oil spill and what you are saying are physical symptoms of physical harm.' And I’m questioning how long do these folks have to wait before you can make these ties and then determine there will be payment, compensation, from this BP fund, so that they, too, these people who have been physically harmed, will be made whole."
[begins at 27:35]

"Death Toll from BP Spill Still Rising as Residents Die from Spill-Related Illnesses", Democracy Now!, 20 Apr 2011
"'We’ve had many deaths of humans directly attributed to this disaster,' says investigative journalist Dahr Jamail. 'I recently spoke with Dr. Mike Robichaux, a doctor in Louisiana who’s treated scores of people. And he said, if we do not have federal government intervention immediately to deal with this and start treating people and start really cleaning this up appropriately, we’re going to have a lot of dead people on our hands.'"

 

Lawsuits & legislative remedies

"Year After Gulf Spill, A Rush To Join MDL", Derek Hawkins, Law360, 20 Apr 2011:
"On Wednesday’s anniversary..., spill victims scrambled to make last-minute filings preserving their right to join the multidistrict litigation in Louisiana over the disaster...[The] MDL has swelled from about 70 cases at its inception to some 350 now...BP was among those who headed to the courthouse Wednesday under a looming midnight deadline to file claims, lodging a third-party complaint alleging Halliburton Energy Services Inc. concealed crucial details about the cement work it performed on the Macondo well. As a direct result of Halliburton's alleged conduct, the well blew out, BP said...BP also hit rig owner Transocean Ltd. with a similar complaint, claiming the company's negligence was to blame for the explosion and fire...But Transocean shifted the blame back to BP, blasting the newly-launched suit as an "unconscionable" and "desperate" bid by BP to turn its back on an agreement with Transocean to assume full responsibility for the oil spill...BP filed a third-party suit accusing blowout preventer maker Cameron International Corp. of failing to properly service the Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer, causing "in whole or in part" the well blowout and spill...On Tuesday, Moex Offshore LLC and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., both minority partners at BP’s defunct Gulf of Mexico well, filed third-party claims against BP, Transocean and several others, alleging the companies breached an operating agreement by failing to prevent the explosion and resulting spill...Potential individual plaintiffs and their attorneys spent the week leading up to the Wednesday deadline filing tens of thousands of short forms to secure a spot in the company’s liability trial next February.  Transocean is seeking to limit its liability in the matter to $27 million, the approximate scrap value of the Deepwater Horizon rig...In October, BP agreed to waive the Oil Pollution Act’s $75 million liability cap on damages.  Plaintiffs ranging from small fishermen to cleanup workers to the U.S. Department of Justice have since tacked new complaints onto the growing list of suits in the case, looking to hold the drilling companies and contractors liable for lost business, property damage, environmental damage, health problems related to oil and chemical exposure, and more.  Earlier this year, the first of the families of the 11 rig workers killed in the explosion that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon reached settlements with the rig owners and operators. At least five families have settled so far."

"On BP Oil Disaster Anniversary, Groups Tell Congress: Get Together and Get Gulf Restoration Done", Environmental Defense Fund, 20 Apr 2011
"On the first anniversary of the BP oil well blowout, regional and national leaders urged Congress to hold BP accountable by passing legislation to dedicate BP's Clean Water Act (CWA) fines to restoring the Gulf's damaged environment and economy.  Under current law, fines paid by BP and others responsible for the spill automatically will be deposited into the Federal Treasury, instead of being used to help restore the Gulf region.  U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and David Vitter (R-La.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) have introduced four separate bills that would dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines to restore the Gulf Coast's environment and economy...'Given our huge budget deficit, Clean Water Act fines are the most viable, short-term funding mechanism for the long-term restoration of the Gulf Coast that President Obama promised ten months ago "to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region",' said Paul Harrison, senior director of Mississippi River Delta Restoration Project for Environmental Defense Fund. 'Congress must hold BP accountable for the environmental and economic damage it caused from the worst oil spill in U.S. history by dedicating the Clean Water Act fines to Gulf Coast restoration and ensuring BP pays the bill for the Natural Resources Damage Assessment.'"

 

General commentary

"CSR Disasters: BP Spill, A Year On", Akhila Vijayaraghavan, JustMeans, 21 Apr 2011