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BP oil disaster

Deepwater Horizon gaff, which killed 11, had economic impact on Mississippi Coast as well as national and international politics

On April 20, Mississippians learned that the oil platform Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 50 miles south of the Louisiana Coast had exploded costing 11 lives. While tragic, it seemed far away from the Magnolia State.

However, the next day reports of oil spewing from the blast site raised fears at home that the accident could have a devastating impact on the Coast and the entire state (MBJ Online, April 21, “Oil rig sinks, major spill possible”).

Concerns spread faster than the oil. The week after the explosion, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Alice Perry briefed state lawmakers on the impact the spill could have on Mississippi after the Coast Guard announced the blown well was spewing five times the crude previously estimated (MBJ Online, April 28, “MDEQ briefs legislators as oil leak grows”).

In early May, Gov. Haley Barbour said the spill posed no immediate threat to Mississippi, but asked for military assistance (MBJ Online, May 3, “Barbour: Oil not immediate threat, asks for National Guard mobilization”).

Three days later, BP, owner of the Deepwater Horizon, tried the first of numerous quick fixes to stop the leak (MBJ Online, May 6, “Giant box close to being over oil-spewing well”).

But the attempt failed, and just more than a week later locals learned the worst — oil had reached the state (MBJ Online, May 14, “State’s beaches, islands may have tar balls”) — though it would be another two-plus weeks before the full impact was felt (MBJ Online, June 1, “Barbour: Residue from BP oil spill has reached Petit Bois Island”).

MBJ’s June 14 cover story highlighted the problems that were being caused on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The stories inside that edition detailed the struggles small and big business were dealing with in conjunction with the largest oil disaster in American history.

MBJ’s June 14 cover story highlighted the problems that were being caused on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The stories inside that edition detailed the struggles small and big business were dealing with in conjunction with the largest oil disaster in American history.

The size of the disaster is perhaps best measured by BP’s cleanup tab. In early May, BP put its cost at $350 million (MBJ Online, May 10, “BP puts oil spill cost at $350M”). In early October, the price tag had grown to $8 billion (MBJ Online, Oct. 1, “BP’s Gulf oil spill bill reaches $8B”).

Coast businesses began feeling the impact of the spill before the oil arrived, fueled, they said, by exaggerated national media accounts that painted a worse-than-reality picture (MBJ, May 17, “Coast officials” We’re open for business”).

By this time, disaster recovery efforts were underway (MBJ Online, May 18, “SBA opens oil spill recovery centers”) and businesses were getting in line for BP assistance (MBJ Online, May 20, “State gets tourism promotion funds from BP”) as the full impact of the spill began to be felt (MBJ Online, June 2, “State fishing waters closed due to oil spill”).

Though the well was capped in September, issues remain. In the wake of the disaster, President Obama issued a moratorium on deepwater drilling (MBJ Online, May 27, “AP source: Obama extends stop on deepwater wells”). The moratorium was subsequently lifted, but the lack of permits had the White House on the defensive just this month (MBJ Online, Dec. 9, “Agency leader denies ‘de facto’ drilling moratorium”)

And while BP has consistently maintained it is expediting oil spill claims, recent reports show many are still waiting for assistance (MBJ Online, Nov. 2, “More residents denied BP money;” MBJ, Nov. 28, “Casino worker BP claims denied”).

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About Wally Northway

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