The April 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources, a study published in the journal Science said.
Scientists conducted a six-year study of the impact of the 134-million gallon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers created a survey to put a dollar value on the natural resources damaged by the BP disaster by determining how much a household was willing to pay for measures that would prevent similar damages if aanother spill happened.
The BP spill damaged beaches, marshes, animals, fish and coral, which people deem extremely valuable. The study found Americans value the natural resources at $17.2 billion.
“This is proof that our natural resources have an immense monetary value to citizens of the United States who visit the Gulf and to those who simply care that this valuable resource is not damaged,” Kevin Boyle, a Virginia Tech professor of agricultural and applied economics, said in a statement.
A month after the BP spill, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ordered researchers to put a value on the environmental harm caused by the BP explosion and subsequent spill. The study found the average household was willing to pay $153 in taxes for programs that prevent events like the BP oil spill. The $153 was then multiplied by the number of those surveyed and had a final valuation of $17.2 billion.
“The results were eye-opening in that we could tell how much people really value marine resources and ecosystems,” said Boyle, who was one of the authors of the paper. “And even more meaningful because we did additional analysis that proved the legitimacy of oft-criticized values for environmental resources.”
The study is the first financial accounting of the natural resources impacted by BP oil spill.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and caused a leak that lasted 87 days.
After the incident, BP’s chief executive officer stepped down. The company said it created a “new safety division with sweeping powers to oversee and audit its operations around the world” after the disaster, and said it's making the company “a safer, more risk-aware business.”
Scientists hope the study will compel politicians to protect the environment from such events.
“Our estimate can guide policymakers and the oil industry in determining not only how much should be spent on restoration efforts for the Deepwater spill, but also how much should be invested to protect against damages that could result from future oil spills,” Boyle said. “People value our natural resources, so it’s worth taking major actions to prevent future catastrophes and correct past mistakes.”