Liability, Compensation, and Financial Responsibility Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990: A Review of the Second Decade

Lawrence I. Kiern | Article

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon mobile offshore drilling unit exploded and sank approximately forty miles off the southern coast of Louisiana while working on the Macondo/MC252 oil well. According to federal government estimates, over the next eighty-seven days the well discharged over 200 million gallons of crude oil into the ecologically rich waters of the Gulf of Mexico. BP disputed this estimate as between twenty percent and fifty percent too high in comments submitted to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which was responsible for investigating the incident. As of this writing, the dispute between the federal government and BP persists over the amount of oil actually discharged into the Gulf of Mexico. No matter the precise amount of the spill, few could have accurately forecast how this oil pollution incident and the events of the following months would unfold. The total cost of the incident remains uncertain and will likely not be known for many years. For example, the State of Louisiana has called for a multiyear program to certify the safety of seafood in order to restore public confidence in the state’s seafood industry.