Photo by Ideum – ideas + media, on Flickr The Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform on fire following the explosion of the Macondo oil well. The federal government estimates that 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was capped.
April 19, 2015 Earth Island
Offshore and onshore, oil and gas operations and transportation appear no safer than before. Five years after the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico sparked national outrage, oil spills remain a routine occurrence across the United States. Yet many receive little — if any — national attention. The enormity and unprecedented scale of the BP disaster demanded a federal emergency response and captured daily headlines for months. But oil spills and pipeline ruptures occur daily – as they have nearly every day since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010. While many are relatively small in comparison, they still pose threats to public safety, health, and the environment…. No record of spills from onshore oil and gas operations is maintained by any single federal agency. The Bureau of Land Management requires reporting of “undesirable events” — that is, spills — from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands. But these reports are sent to field offices and not readily accessible. Other onshore spill records are maintained by individual states. E&E’s EnergyWire noted last year that while there was a 17 percent increase in incidents between 2013 and 2014, these records are considered “an undercount” and not all states make this data available. In the top 15 oil and gas producing states, EnergyWire tallied at least 7,662 spills or other releases in 2013, up from 6,546 in 2012. That brings the 2013 total to about 20 such incidents per day that, combined, released some 26 million gallons of oil and related fluids. When it comes to pipeline ruptures and spills, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration does maintain a list of incidents. But the database does not work with all web-browsers, so details on these incidents — including cause and any information about volume and type of fuel spilled — is not readily accessible. Between 2010 and 2014, however, the PHMSA lists 3,072 incidents involving gas or other hazardous liquids. So far in 2015, the agency lists 189 such pipeline incidents. According to the PHMSA, altogether — from 2010 through 2015 — these incidents caused 81 deaths, 378 injuries and more than $2.8 billion in property damage