the largest oil spill in U.S. history:
Fifty miles from Louisiana’s coast and a mile
below the surface,
at least 4 million barrels (168 million gallons) were dis
Eleven men died and seventeen were seriously injured from the explo-
sions and fires aboard the rig.
As many as 90,000 people from ninety different
organizations mobilized for the spill response, which cost approximately $14 bil-
Many responders reported acute and long-term health effects from expo-
sure to oil and chemicals used in the response.
Over 3,000 spill-related cases,
including more than 100,000 claimants, have been filed since 2010.
Carl Barbier, who presided over cases arising from the spill, explained: “the seri-
ousness of [the Deepwater spill] cannot be overstated. The oil spill was extremely
serious. It was gravely serious. It was a massive and severe tragedy.”
Yet, in the years since Deepwater, oil spills continue to be a major source of
posing pervasive and ongoing threats to the environment and
6. Largest Oil Spills Affecting U.S. Waters Since 1969, NAT’L OCEANIC & ATMOSPHERIC ADMIN. OFF.
OF RESPONSE & RESTORATION, https://perma.cc/5WM6-VH5L (last visited Feb. 14, 2020).
7. Carl Safina, The 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Well Blowout: A Little Hindsight, 9 PLOS BIOLOGY 1, 1, 4
(2011), e1001049 (explaining that the distance from the surface of the Gulf of Mexico to the sea floor was
one mile and the distance from the seafloor to the bottom of the well was just over 4 km (about 2.5 mi)).
8. Deepwater Penalty Ruling, 148 F. Supp. 3d at 568 (finding that 4 million barrels were discharged
and 3.19 entered the Gulf). But see Igal Berenshtein, Claire Paris, Natalie Perlin, Matthew Alloy,
Samantha Joye, & Steve Murawski, Invisible Oil Beyond the Deepwater Horizon Satellite Footprint, 6
SCIENCE ADVANCES 1, 1–2 (2020) (concluding that the total may be 30 percent more than what was
listed in the court’s ruling).
9. Deepwater Penalty Ruling, 148 F. Supp. 3d at 565.
10. Id. at 568; Deepwater Horizon: Response in the Midst of an Historic Crisis, NAT’L OCEANIC &
ATMOSPHERIC ADMIN. OFF. OF RESPONSE & RESTORATION, https://perma.cc/25UZ-Y4RZ (last visited
Feb. 14, 2020).
11. Jennifer Rusiecki, Melannie Alexander, Erica Schwartz, Li Wang, Laura Weems, John Barrett,
Kate Christenbury, David Johndrow, Rene
´e Funk, & Lawrence Engel, The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Coast Guard Cohort Study, 75 JOURNAL OF OCCUPATIONAL & ENVTL MED. 165, 165 (2018) (finding
“positive associations between crude oil exposure and various acute physical symptoms among
responders, as well as longer term health effects” with over 50 percent of 53,519 responders surveyed
reporting exposure to oil); Sara Sneath, 8 Years After BP Oil Spill, Thousands of Medical Claims Still
not Paid, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (Apr. 20, 2018, 1:18 PM), https://www.nola.com/news/environment/
12. Deepwater Penalty Ruling, 148 F. Supp. 3d at 566.
13. Id. at 570.
14. See, e.g., Emily Cassidy, There Were 137 Oil Spills In The Us In 2018. See Where They
Happened, RESOURCE WATCH: BLOG (FEB. 7, 2019), https://perma.cc/HXN5-KTDP; see also BUREAU
OF OCEAN ENERGY MGMT., 2016 UPDATE OF OCCURRENCE RATES FOR OFFSHORE OIL SPILLS 76, (2016),
https://perma.cc/ZJ66-96FZ [hereinafter BOEM 2016 UPDATE] (reporting 725 spills on the Outer
Continental Shelf between 2001 and 2015 from platforms and pipelines); Offshore Incident Statistics,
BUREAU OF SAFETY & ENVTL. ENFORCEMENT, https://perma.cc/Q3WJ-TLHR (last visited Oct. 26, 2020)
(reporting 383 small spills of oil, drilling mud, and other chemicals from drilling platforms from 2007–
2015); J. M. Weber & R. E. Crew, Jr., Deterrence Theory and Marine Oil Spills: Do Coast Guard Civil
Penalties Deter Pollution? 58 J. OF ENVTL. M GMT. 161, 161 (2000) doi:10.1006/jema.1999.0326 (“The
long-term impacts of [small] spills can have huge consequence for marine ecosystems.”); Indeed, even
“safe” deepwater drilling practices have negative environmental impacts due to small but pervasive
discharges of oil and other toxic chemicals. See Oistein Johansen, Henrik Rye & Cortis Cooper, Deep
Spill–Field Study of a Simulated Oil and Gas Blowout in Deep Water, 8 SPILL SCI. & TECH. BULL. 433,
2020] A CANARY IN A COAL MINE 3