Three years have passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and leaving oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. From April 20th until July 15th, 2010, 200 million gallons of sticky, black crude oil spilled, affecting hundreds of miles of coastline and killing thousands of animals.
The Gulf oil spill was the worst of its kind in U.S. history. Although the spill wreaked havoc on the surrounding communities, tar balls have been removed from beaches, businesses got reparations, and things have, on the surface, returned to normal in many places. David Muth, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program, told the AP that "visually, the [Gulf] coast looks great, and I think most of what was visible is gone."
Despite Newsweek's assertion that “the BP disaster has been largely forgotten” and “the media have moved on,” the ramifications of this landmark event are far from over.
Although BP already pled guilty to 14 federal criminal charges, including lying to Congress, and agreed to a $4.5 billion settlement, the civil trial could bring billions more in penalties if the company is held liable for damages stemming from the 2010 disaster.
Barring a settlement, BP could be fined $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil under the Clean Water Act. If the presiding federal judge decides the company acted with "gross negligence," these fines could jump to $4,300 per barrel. This means BP could be responsible for as much as $18 billion in fines, according to AP.
BP was not only affected financially. The oil company has been working feverishly to restore their reputation, pouring over $100 million into advertising in the four months following the oil spill. They made adjustments to their executive roster, announced their dedication to cleaning up, and did their best to convince people the spill wasn’t as bad as they imagined.