12/19/2011 - The network TV news crews may have long since left, but the work of repairing the environmental and economic damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is far from complete. During the course of the spill, roughly 4.9 million barrels of crude flowed into the gulf — an amount of oil that, by some estimates, could have heated just over 13,200 American homes for an entire year.
It will likely be years, or even decades, before we know the full extent of the effects of the catastrophe on the regional marine ecosystems. Researchers have documented that populations of herring, clams and sea otters still haven't recovered from the Exxon Valdez spill, which occurred more than 20 years ago. In 2001, more than 48 years after an oil tanker sank off the coast of Point Reyes, Calif., tar balls were found on its shores. The sooner we can dedicate resources toward repairing the damage from last year's disaster, the better equipped regional leaders will be to address the impact of the spill on the health of the gulf's ecosystem.
But more than a year and a half later, despite numerous pledges of support from leaders in Washington, much of the remediation work still remains to be done. Fortunately, a pending bipartisan proposal in Congress, with support in both the House and Senate, could help the region start 2012 off on the right path by creating a new, dedicated source of funding for long-term gulf restoration efforts.
Read the full opinion editorial, After Oil Spill, Don't Shortchange Gulf, on the St. Petersburg Times' Web site.
The Pew Environment Group’s offshore energy reform work is now a part of Pew’s Arctic Ocean Program.