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November 4, 2020

New scientific studies provide more reasons to stop the expansion of offshore drilling

Ten years after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, offshore drilling remains dirty and dangerous and the industry’s safety record is unacceptable. The disaster’s environmental devastation lingers, and scientists continue to study the impacts of the spill’s toxic oil pollution.

The science is and has been clear that it’s time to stop offshore oil drilling. And still, here are three new scientific findings from 2020:

  1. The Deepwater Horizon disaster’s footprint was 30% larger than previously estimated

A new study found that the satellite data used to monitor the size of the spill missed the full scope of the disaster. The researchers estimated the extent of toxic oil not thick enough for satellites to see. The footprint of toxic oil was about 30% larger than the satellite images showed in the months following the disaster. Toxic levels of oil can kill marine life including young  of fish and crabs. The new study found the true footprint of oil extended to Texas, the Florida Keys and even Florida’s Atlantic coast.

  1. A Gulf fish study revealed that every fish tested was exposed to oil.

During the seven years following the Deepwater Horizon, scientists tested over 2,500 fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Every fish tested was exposed to oil including popular types of seafood. Yellowfin tuna had some of the highest oil exposure. This is the first study of its kind to give baseline information about fish and oil exposure across the Gulf of Mexico.

  1. Offshore drilling platforms pollute twice as much methane than previous estimates

Methane pollution from oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were calculated to be twice as bad as previous government estimates. The new estimate is 530,000 metric tons of methane per year which is equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions from 1.5 million homes. As a greenhouse gas, methane is 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases cause climate change, which worsens flooding, storms and sea level rise for coastal communities. Air pollution from oil and gas drilling also includes toxins like benzene known to cause cancer.

Even 10 years later, we are still learning how destructive the Deepwater Horizon disaster really was long after oil stopped spewing. New research continues to give us more reasons to stop the expansion of offshore drilling and to invest in clean, renewable energy.

This is the tenth piece in an Oceana series looking back at the repercussions of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. To learn more, see Oceana’s report Hindsight 2020: Lessons We Cannot Ignore from the BP Disaster. 

Explore other key moments in the series: Read about current efforts to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, BP’s failed attempts to stop gushing oil with junk, what happened when oil reached Florida’s beaches and how BP’s cleanup response fell short. Learn more about how whales and dolphins of the Gulf are still recovering and how the well was finally cappedRead about how hurricanes and offshore drilling are a dangerous combination.