As reports surface that BP's most recent attempt to plug the leak at its Deepwater Horizon well has been successful, the public is taking a step back and attempting to grasp the full scope of the damage. New figures regarding the amount of oil spewing from the well suggest that the Deepwater Horizon disaster could be three times larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. BP now has the dubious distinction of being responsible for the worst oil-related disaster in American history.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced today that using three separate methods to analyze the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf, it has determined that anywhere from 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day have been spewing from the well. Upon hearing this news, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) accused BP of intentionally low-balling its leak estimates.
According to Congressman Markey, BP may have underestimated the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf in order avoid further fines and penalties. The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, states that companies should pay fines between $1,000 and $3,000 for each barrel of oil spilled. Today's USGS numbers mean that BP could find itself paying three times what it would have if its estimates were accurate.
Despite the USGS estimates, some scientists have claimed that the magnitude of the Gulf oil spill is even more horrifying. Steve Wereley, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, told reporters last week that he believed as many as 25,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil were spewing into the Gulf each day. Either way, its clear the devastation caused by this event will be unprecedented.
Now that, we hope, the leak has been sealed, the country's focus can turn to the clean-up effort. BP must be held responsible for the environmental and economic ruin this spill has wrought. We've already seen how the oil giant has attempted to limit its liability, and Congressman Markey's most recent allegations only further demonstrate that BP will do whatever it can to keep from being held accountable.
This disaster will go down in history as the worst America has ever seen. We must not let BP get away with pillaging our seas, without paying for their negligence.
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