Money can’t make Deepwater Horizon oil spill any less disastrous

I’m a big fan of the state of Louisiana. I was born in New Orleans and have lived here my whole life. I know the importance of the oil and gas industry to this state.

I, like many of my friends and relatives, make a living either directly or indirectly, wholly or partially, from this industry that Louisiana went all in for decades ago. I get it.

Ten years ago, the offshore oil and gas market in the Gulf of Mexico was in the midst of a recovery from one of the industry’s numerous downturns. Optimism was the order of the day, until April 20, when an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig brought that positive momentum to a screeching halt.

It was simply the worst oil spill in U.S. history — an estimated 5 million bbls. of oil in the water, gutting the fishing and seafood industries in Louisiana and neighboring states. (Ironically, it was a boon to some offshore vessel operators and others as government and media types chartered every boat they could get their hands on.)

When I’ve criticized BP and Transocean, the company that owned the rig, in the past concerning Deepwater Horizon some have said that the two companies are integral parts of the workboat industry, providing work for OSV operators. Thus, WorkBoat has no business being critical of BP or Transocean in any way. I know I’m splitting hairs here, but WorkBoat wasn’t critical of those companies — I was and I still do. I think 11 dead, 11 violations of the Clean Water Act, and an almost immeasurable amount of negative publicity gave the oil and gas industry an unwanted black eye (no pun intended). What about BP’s and Transocean’s obligation to the industry they represent?

I covered the cleanup efforts for WorkBoat, including spending two days in the spill area just days after the explosion. The smell of the oil mixed with the chemicals that were being used to help corral it was a smell like nothing I’ve experienced before or since. I also reported from the beaches of Orange Beach, Ala., during the massive cleanup operations there.

The one word that kept coming to me during my coverage of these cleanup efforts was, why? What could be worth 11 lives and tens of billions of dollars? No one has answered that question to my satisfaction yet.

What we do know is that BP pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, one count of lying to Congress and two misdemeanors. BP and Transocean have paid fines and cleanup costs north of $65 billion so far.

Those fines and cleanup costs have kept BP and Transocean accountable for their irresponsible actions. If that’s true, why can’t I shake the feeling they’ve gotten away with something?

About the author

Ken Hocke

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.

1 Comment

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    This was indeed a terrible accident that has affected the industry since. However, it is interesting that you focus on the two main foreign owned companies and neglect to mention the two main American owned companies i.e. Andarko (which owned 25% of Macondo) and Halliburton. I personally don’t think that $65Bn could be classed as ‘getting away with it’. I do stress that this is my opinion.

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