British Petroleum has released an ad campaign in recent months trying to assure the public that all is well after the devastating 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 people and spilled 4.2 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
Furthermore, the oil and chemical dispersants sickened and destroyed countless thousands of dolphins, sea birds, sea turtles and aquatic life from the smallest microbe on the bottom of the food chain to the largest whale.
Nevertheless, BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley recently boasted in an interview, “The Gulf has bounced back really well. And I’d like to think that we played a big role.”
The BP public relations campaign, which coincides with an ongoing lawsuit, is designed to spruce up its image and make people think the oil giant really cares about the loss of lives, commercial seafood jobs and dead aquatic creatures. But in the end it’s all about money and trying to persuade a New Orleans judge that BP has already paid most of its fair share in damages and shouldn’t be forced to pay millions more.
Environmentalists, however, disagree. They want US District Judge Carl J. Barbier to rule that BP should pay additional fines and penalties, but moreover, they want part of the funds designated to clean up vital dolphin habitat and ecosystems because bottlenose dolphins have been dying in unprecedented numbers.
According to a National Wildlife Federation statement, in order “for dolphins to recover, environmental restoration must happen along the shorelines and beaches, in the wetlands and estuaries, and even in rivers and streams that feed the Gulf. We need to make sure the money is not used to subsidize coastal development that could cause further damage to habitats for dolphins and other species.”
Almost 1,000 dolphins have died since 2010 and NOAA is investigating the BP tragedy as a potential cause.
The NWF listed four reasons to believe that BP oil is the culprit in the increased fatality of dolphins.
1. Most of the deaths are concentrated in states nearest to where the Deepwater Horizon exploded, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
2. In-depth studies of dolphins found indications of oil exposure, including being underweight, anemic, with liver and lung diseases and low blood sugar.
3. Approximately 50 percent of dolphins tested appeared to have died from a bacterial infection, which could have been caused by the mammal’s stress levels resulting in a reduced ability to fight infections.
4. Still born dolphin calves have been discovered in higher numbers than usual since the BP spill.
Scientists agree that it could take decades for the Gulf of Mexico and coastal ecosystems to recover. The Exxon Valdez accident spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound in 1989, but in 2010 experts claimed there were still approximately 23,000 gallons of Valdez oil that could be found in the sand and soil of Alaska’s shores.
It took Exxon until 2009 to finally work through all the legal appeals and pay the last of its obligations for one of the worst oil spills in US history, but apparently BP thinks it should be extricated from accountability in three years.
Environmentalists and everyone affected by the BP oil spill hope that Judge Barbier won’t let the oil leviathan off the hook. BP should pay full boat for its negligence, which clearly violated the Clean Water Act.
According to a report in The Miami Herald, Barbier’s decision could mean the difference “between BP paying $2.7 billion or up to $18 billion in fines for violating pollution laws.”
The Halliburton Corporation already pleaded guilty to destroying evidence in a previous BP related case.
By all accounts, regardless of BP’s slick and aggressive ad campaign, the Gulf is still a long way from bouncing back.