Nearly Five Years After Deepwater Horizon Spill, Alabama Coastline Still Picking Up the Pieces

It’s been nearly five years since the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill erupted in the Gulf of Mexico seabed on April 20, 2010, becoming the largest oil spill ever to have occurred in U.S. waters.

And even today, the Alabama coastline is still attempting to clean up the remnants of that spill.

According to a March 21 Pensacola News-Journal article, there are still thousands of pounds of oil left along the Gulf coastline, and cleanup efforts have largely been left to willing citizens now that government-led programs have ended.

To help rally citizen support for cleaning up this oil, a U.S. Coast Guard pollution response team member in Mobile has recently teamed up with Emerald Coast Surfrider, Escambia County and University of West Florida marine science graduate Joey Whibbs to create the Gulf Coast Citizens Monitoring Program.

The program’s first training classes will begin in Pensacola, FL, with another session starting April 18 in Gulf Shores, theNews-Journal reports. Petty Officer Paul Burnett of the Coast Guard Mobile Sector will be teaching the Alabama class.

At these training sessions, people will learn how to search for, identify, document and report remaining BP oil along the coast, and how to have it safely removed.

“It’s great to have people who care enough to report when they see residual oil washing up,” Burnett said. “Having those eyes on the beach is the only way for us to hold BP accountable for whatever is washing ashore.”

And while the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig might be forever sealed, preventing a future spill from that site, the economic potential lying beneath the waters of the Gulf are hard to ignore for the oil and gas industry, which employs some 9.8 million Americans and makes up 8% of the national economy.

On March 2, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced its plans to lease 21.8 million acres off the coast of Texas for offshore drilling purposes. The BOEM estimates this lease will lead to the production of 116-200 million barrels of oil and 538-938 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to Breaking Energy.

It’s the sign of another major increase in offshore drilling output that has continued to rise since the deepwater drilling moratorium that took place from April 30 to October 12, 2010, following the Deepwater Horizon spill. If anything is to be learned from that incident, it’s that extreme caution is necessary when planning for future domestic offshore development.