BP completed filling its damaged Gulf of Mexico well with cement on Thursday, providing still more assurance that the gushing flow of crude oil that started in April with the explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon platform off the coast of Louisiana has been permanently stopped.
The estimated 172 million gallons of crude that spewed into the gulf from 5,000 feet below the surface became the largest spill disaster in American history, and it led to a drilling freeze as a precaution while the government and the oil business sought to make existing sites safer and less likely to repeat the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The lesson and failures within BP and specifically on the Deepwater Horizon platform, which led to the deaths of 11 employees, will be analyzed for years to come, as will the impact of the spill on the gulf environment and coastal estuaries.
Mississippi was among the states whose tourism business, commercial fishing industry and coastline were swamped by the oil. The summer tourist season on the Mississippi coast has been described as a disaster, but recreational and commercial fishing has reopened as of Friday.
However, a strong sign that movement toward recovery has started came last week with the Obama administration’s announcement that it may end its drilling ban earlier than the Nov. 30 expiration of the order.
The oil business in the states bordering the gulf is an economic engine employing thousands directly and indirectly.
Gulf of Mexico wells, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, generate 30 percent of total U.S. offshore crude oil production: 1.6 million barrels per day. Gulf wells also produce 13 percent of the natural gas consumed in the U.S., and gulf ports handle 6 million barrels of imported oil per day.
The Deepwater Horizon oil deluge threatened to shut down ports along the coast, which would have been economically more disastrous than even the spill.
We hope Mississippi’s whole congressional delegation speaks with a unified voice in urging the Obama administration to cancel the drilling freeze and allow the private sector to reclaim as many jobs as possible as quickly as possible.
Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said in an Associated Press article last week that he and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar were gathering information to decide whether to revise or even lift the ban, which has shut down drilling at 33 ocean wells.
Business groups and Gulf Coast political leaders in all the bordering states say the ban on permits for new wells is crippling the oil and gas industry and costing thousands of jobs, even aboard rigs not operated by BP.
It is undeniable that government and industry leaders were caught unprepared by the disaster, which came after four decades in which there were few serious offshore oil spills. Complacency isn’t likely to return anytime soon.
Mississippi probably does not fully know the statewide impact of the BP disaster in all of its dimensions because the revenue stream is pinched by the recession, but a return to full industry employment can help the state weather the bad economy, recover tourism, and pay for essential services dependent on sales, income and other taxes.
NEMS Daily Journal