Report: Oil Disasters Common in Last Decade

Frequent Oil Disasters Cry for Comprehensive Climate and Energy Reforms

07-29-2010 // Tony Iallonardo
Oil burning in Gulf of Mexico

A new report catalogs a decade of serious oil spills, fires, leaks and loss of life over the last decade that National Wildlife Federation says underscores petroleum company malfeasance. According to the report, from 2000 to 2010, the oil and gas industry accounted for hundreds of deaths, explosions, fires, seeps, and spills as well as habitat and wildlife destruction in the United States.  These disasters demonstrate that the BP incident is not merely an accident but an industry pattern that places profit ahead of communities, local economies, and the environment.

“The oil and gas industry’s careless business approach does a clear injustice to the American people. The total cost of the status quo in lives lost and environmental damage is far too high,” said Tim Warman, executive director of the NWF’s global warming solutions program. “There is a better way to meet our energy needs with cleaner and safer energy sources. We should not delay with enacting policy solutions that reduce our addiction to fossil fuels.” 

The report, “Assault on America: A Decade of Petroleum Company Disaster, Pollution, and Profit,” provides a sampling of thousands of on- and off-shore disasters of all types, large and small. These examples from each year shed light on how the oil and gas industry has continued to show negligence and experience accidents all over the country. While not exhaustive, the listing offers a cross-section of spills, leaks, fires, explosions, toxic emissions, water pollution, and more that have not occurred in the last decade – the post- Exxon Valdez era, the post- Oil Pollution Act of 1990 era, when the industry claimed to have mended their dangerous ways.

NO REGION SPARED

States with the most incidents over the period were Texas, Louisiana and California.

The report also tracks industry profits and a pattern of political contributions to members of Congress and presidential aspirants. 

“You never hear of a wind farm disaster or a solar farm catastrophe,” said Warman.  “There are safer, cleaner choices.  Congress needs to push the industry to mend it’s ways and spur investments in clean energy.”

(Click map at right to download a high res map of Fossil Energy Company Accidents from 2000-2009).

BROKEN PROMISES

This was supposed to be the era of “never again,” the refrain often heard following a major tanker spill, refinery explosion, or pipeline leak. Spill prevention plans, better safety procedures, and improved technology, that we were told would help eliminate spills, fires, explosions, leaks and seeps. There has even been, from time to time, talk of making this industry “inherently safe,” which now seems like a joke. Yes, this was supposed to be the era of no more leaky river barges, no more oil refinery smog, no more worker deaths and injuries, no more well blow-outs, and no more underground tank farm plumes or gas station oil seepage into groundwater or beneath neighboring communities. Yet we have had all of that and more in the last decade.

The stories that follow show that today’s oil and gas industry threatens Americans in countless ways.This industry continues to knowingly endanger its own workers, the environment, wildlife, and our communities in every state of this nation, day in and day out. Collectively these disasters are an assault on us all that accrues by a thousand cuts; drip by drip, leak by leak, explosion by explosion, and death by death.

REFORMS NEEDED

The report comes as Congress debates a response to the BP disaster.  Among the recommendations, the report says now is the time to cap global warming pollution from all oil and gas production. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill is truly a tragedy of our time but should provide an opportunity “to take a closer and more comprehensive look at the full and continuing costs that the oil and gas industry continues to impose on society with 24-7 pollution, environmental degradation, habitat destruction, wildlife loss, worker and community endangerment, health effects consequences, and loss of life.”

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