On 20 April 2010, the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and caught fire in US waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 11 workers were killed in the explosion and 17 injured. The rig was owned by Transocean on lease to BP, which was the main operator and developer of the site, with Anadarko Petroleum and MOEX Offshore (part of Mitsui Oil Exploration) as minority co-owners.
Work on the well had been performed just before the explosion by Halliburton. The 'blowout preventer' was built by Cameron International.
On 22 April, the rig sank.
Oil leaked from the ruptured well head until 15 July when it was temporarily stopped; approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf. On 19 September 2010, the US government declared the well 'effectively dead'.
Oil directly affected coastal areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas. People dependent on fishing and tourism have been severely affected, along with those in other industries, including some farther from the Gulf Coast.
Concerns have also been raised in relation to health hazards for clean-up workers and coastal residents, including harms allegedly caused by chemicals used to disperse the oil (made by Nalco). The oil spill- reaching around 5 million barrels before it was finally stopped-is recognized by the Flow Rate Technical Group as the largest oil spill to ever take place in marine waters. (1)
BP agreed to pay almost 20 billion USD in settlements from resulting lawsuits. This money was to be funneled into restoration efforts which have the potential to restore a large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico due to water from the Mississippi river delta tainted by industrialagriculture. (2)
BP committed 500 million USD to fund the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, allowing scientists to study and understand the impact of the spill. (2)
In late November, 2010, activists filed a lawsuit against BP in Ecuador, citing universal jurisdiction before the country’s constitutional court and referencing the country’s constitutional recognition of Rights of Nature. Renowned Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva spoke to the claim, saying “This morning we filed this lawsuit to defend the rights of Nature, in particular the rights of the Gulf of Mexico and the sea, which were violated by the BP oil spill. It’s about universal jurisdiction beyond the boundaries of Ecuador because Nature has rights everywhere, and that is why a global coalition were the first signatories to say: we as citizens of the earth have a duty to protect Nature everywhere.” (3)
Often applied in Human Rights cases, Universal Jurisdiction allows a country to prosecute crimes committed by nationals or foreigners anywhere in the world. Diana Murcia, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said the case aimed to bring Nature to the table as a rights-bearing entity.
Rights of Nature – The Catastrophe
Nature – How Bps 18.7 billion oil spill settlement could help the gulf of mexico
Upside down world BP. Sued in Ecuador for violating the rights of nature