Louisiana Using BP Settlement Money to Restore Coast

28 July, 2015

Five years ago, work crews successfully stopped a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The workers blocked the release of oil from a well that had been leaking for 87 days.

The oil spill polluted major fishing areas, estuaries and beaches along the Gulf coast of the southeastern United States. Earlier this month, the company judged responsible, British Petroleum, agreed to pay $18.7 billion to coastal states. That money will help pay for environmental and economic restoration efforts. But a full recovery could still take many more years.

About 70 percent of the shrimp Americans eat has traditionally come from the Gulf of Mexico. But large areas of the gulf were closed to fishing after the oil spill and seafood businesses had to look to other areas for shrimp.

Coastal fishing areas are now open. But the owner of Blanchard Seafood, a seafood company, says many of his former buyers never came back. Owner Dean Blanchard says his business is probably losing $20 million a year in sales. Mr. Blanchard says he is still angry at BP. He says oil companies, in general, do not seem interested in caring for their equipment in the Gulf. He says the companies only think about profits and do not care about the environment.

Port Fourchon has one of the largest oil and gas operation centers in the United States. It is just a short drive from Dean Blanchard's business on Grande Isle.

While the energy industry has had a clear effect on Louisiana's natural areas, it is the most important provider of jobs in the state.

Oil refineries and storage centers line the Mississippi River in the state capital, Baton Rouge.

Kyle Graham is head of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

"If you look at the permits that are issued for oil and gas activity, in the near shore, the ones that the state issues, they now require mitigation activies and for all of the fill material to be beneficially utilized."

Mr. Graham says the state's share of the BP settlement money will give Louisiana the ability to fix some problems.

"As we learn more about the effects of this spill, there is money there that we would be able to utilize to come up with a restoration action."

Visitors are returning to the sunny Louisiana coast to fish and swim in the Gulf waters. But there are many effects from the BP oil spill that can only be seen through careful research.

Many studies have found oil and other chemicals on the sea floor of the Gulf and in the shells and bodies of different kinds of aquatic animals.

There are different opinions on how serious the problem is. But Kyle Graham says a full recovery will require more studies and more work.

I'm Jim Tedder.

Greg Flakus reported on this story from Louisiana. Triwik Kurniasari adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

estuaries – n. areas where a river flows into the sea

refineries n. places where something is refined or purified

mitigation – n. reducing the effect of something

filln. material that is used to replace something

aquaticadj. living in or near water