The Disastrous BP blowout in Mexico.

The blowout of BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico took place on April 20, 2010. It took place in the deep waters of the Gulf. This was the largest accidental oil spill ever reported. In fact, the spill was greater than both the Ixtoc blowout off the coast of Mexico and the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Eleven employees of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig met their untimely death, scores were injured, and livelihoods of thousands of fishermen were destroyed, several living organisms in the marine environment destroyed and several beaches including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were also polluted. The blowout was only contained later on July 15, 2010. Several lawsuits were lodge before the Coast Guard and the Department of the interior, also by a commission appointed by president Obama and also by a Congressional hearings.
After this spillage a resource damage assessment kicked off but the process is believed to take a long time to complete. Approximately, 185,000,000 gallons of oil were discharged. A clean-up process was set up to try and curb the pollution on the water surface. In addition to this natural processes also removed much of the oil from the water surface. Despite these efforts, the adverse effects of the spillage may have widespread effects that may last for decades. The media that had widely focused their attention on this is quickly changing focus to other issues. The intensive and wide media coverage had raised eye blows. Among questions that were raised were on those regarding who was in charge of the whole operation, why there was a delayed emergency response, why there was a laxity in the federal oversight, also the role played by the culpable companies, the impact of the oil on the eco-system and also the ability of the environment to recover. Resolving these issues and those on resource damage that occurred is expected to take many years and may involve other stakeholders outside the law.

The Exxon Valdez spill of March 1989 necessitated the need to set up a working regulatory framework so as to act as a method of responding to future oil spills disasters. It was called the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 better known as OPA 90. This was an amendment to the Clean Water Act which had been enacted before because of the Santa Barbara blowout of 1969. Earlier laws that existed included the Port and Tanker Safety Act of 1978 and was a reaction to the Argo Merchant tanker spill of Nantucket of 1976. This was after a fifteen year legislative endeavour to control oil spills under various federal laws. The Exxon Valdez provided the required legal framework that endeared to establish federal management and control of oil spills and also expounded on containment, removal, recovery and clean-up efforts. It also holds all involved parties liable for all the costs of the waste management as a result of the spill. It also established an Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to fund spill management to a tune of $1 billion and also created stronger enforcement authorities penalties, spill prevention countermeasures and response mechanisms.
Some of the sections contained in the OPA about the processes involved in controlling an oil spillage include section 4201 of OPA 90 which requires that the federal government to take control of an oil spillage. They are also responsible of ensuring the containment, removal and remediation measures are undertaken in record time. Also Federal authorities were to be responsible for all spills on land and the coast guard for offshore incidents. Also at the core of OPA 90 is the creation of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) which establishes an organizational structure with national, regional, state and local reach. This also integrates all the sixteen federal agencies, state and local governments. This was geared at creating a unified command system so as to achieve an effective and efficient response. The provision also sort to make it clear that any offshore facility that due to its location could cause substantial amount of harm to the environment by discharging into navigable waters, adjoining shorelines should prepare and submit a plan for responding to spillages or a potential threat of a discharge. Also section 1004 of OPA 90 has a limit liability of $75 million spills from offshore facilities. This cap applies on its face only to damages and not to any removal costs. The OPA may be termed as being effective but this effectiveness is dependent on its contingency response plans. It seems to be inadequate in these avenues and a review of these plans need to be considered.
The reason it took so long to stop the spill it was because there were no systems in place to stop this. There were no capabilities in place to do this despite there being contingency plans to deal with such a situation. The facility was also not in line with the NCP regulations. Since it was unable to enact its rules and regulations. The NCP requires that any offshore drilling facility has to have in place various facilities. Such an institution should have a facility-specific oil spill response plan. This is supposed to be the guiding key or the principle tool that deals with containing any spills. The BP’s response plan was inadequate and could not be implemented effectively. The NCP regulations in reference with the Department of the Interior (DOI) that sets up regulations require that for a facility specific response plans are needed for an offshore oil rig. The regulations also require that if one is to operate an oil rig seaward, it is expected that the company must be registered with the Mineral Management Service (MMS) for any response plan. Also it is very important that the response plan should demonstrate that the company is capable of responding quickly and effectively whenever there is a discharge of oil from the facility.
There are specific principles that guide the operation in accordance with the response plan. The response plan is expected to provide response to an oil spill from the facility. Whenever there is oil spillage in the facility. It also expected that the company carries out periodic drills and tests so as to ensure facility was safe. The plan must also be in accordance with the National Contingency Plan and also the appropriate Area Contingency Plan(s).
The DOI regulation also addresses equipment, maintenance of the equipment, personnel, training of personnel and periodic exercises to test the equipment and personnel. A facility should have a rig operator who is mandated with identifying the worst case spill and should also analyse the environment to know what resources may be directly affected by a spill. He or she should also be able to contain a worst case spill. In addition to this, the plan must also have a description of the equipment to be used in containing and recovering the discharge to the maximum extent as is humanly possible. A response plan is also expected to be tested periodically with drills and exercises and is expected to be reviewed and updated every two years.
These were some of the reasons why the BP lacked the capacity to control the oil spillage. It also emerged that the Gulf of Mexico deep-water contingency plan like that of other oil companies were copied from those that had been designed for use in the Arctic. The plan of the facility was expected to identify a worst case spill from each specific rig and also list all the employees and equipment that was expected to contain a spill but this was not the case. Its response plan was not created on such basis but its focus was general in that it was not specific to any particular rig or specific incident. The response plan was also very ambitious in that it had been written that the facility had the capability to handle a blowout of 250,000 barrels per day but even so the plan did not explain how it would handle such a pill. The plan contains a list of the equipment located in the facility but it does not go into details how these equipment would be used in handling a spill. With such poor planning it would have been difficult for the facility to handle the blowout. Since from this it seems the facility had not put in place systems to ensure such a spill would be handled safely to ensure the after effects that occurred after the spill would not have taken place. It would have been easy for the team to avert the disaster had they strictly adhered to the above requirements

– Griggs, J. (2011). BP GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL. Energy Law Journal, 32.1, 57-79. Retrieved from

Published by
Write my essay
View all posts