It’s been five years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill ravaged several Gulf states, and BP finally reached a multibillion-dollar settlement with U.S. federal courts in what the Wall Street Journal has described as “a monumental legal showdown.”
The total settlement amount is more than $20 billion, and it’s reportedly the largest settlement the U.S. federal government has ever reached with a private corporation.
Still, many state authorities are saying that the $1 billion awarded to Alabama is not nearly enough to cover the damage of the 2010 spill, wherein millions of barrels of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days and 11 crew members aboard the Deepwater drilling rig were killed.
According to AL.com, federal officials reached an agreement with BP to ensure that the settlement money is directed to local authorities who can then distribute the money as needed, but Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, stated that local lawmakers were not consulted before the deal was struck.
Furthermore, Byrne said that Alabama’s total cut of the settlement comes out to around $2.3 billion, but local communities are only receiving $1 billion for economic damages; the remaining $1.3 billion will be distributed to several coastal restoration projects, to be paid out over the course of 18 years.
Byrne may not be content with the arrangement, but Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange stated that it was probably “the very best settlement possible” for Alabama, according to WDTN News.
It’s worth noting that in a Gulf state like Alabama, local economies are tightly connected to the environment — many state residents relied on Gulf habitats for their food and income, and when those habitats were destroyed, so were the residents’ jobs.
The unemployment situation hasn’t been easy for federal and state governments to handle, simply because the Deepwater spill was the largest recorded oil spill in U.S. history. Government officials have plenty of experience awarding financial compensation when someone is injured on the job, as well over 900,000 American workers are each year, but officials haven’t been able to navigate their own system when so many workers were out of a job because their workplace was injured.
The problem that hundreds of residents have been facing for five years is clear: environmental habitats are fragile and they take decades to reach a thriving balance — and Gulf residents have played a part in finding that balance working on the water — but it only took about three months for the entire system to be destroyed.
It could very well take decades until Alabama’s ecosystem is stable enough to support marine professions, and no amount of money will speed up that process.