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A Decade of Petroleum Company Disaster, Pollution, and Profit

2010 - National Wildlife Federation. The BP catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, with its tragic loss of life and devastating impact on the Gulf Coast economy, has brought the risk and high cost of oil development to the public’s attention.

Predictably a round of oil industry executives have testified before Congress offering countless apologies and empty assurances that such an incident will never happen again. The oil industry is running ads asserting that this is an exceptional ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event for an otherwise safe and responsible industry.

But this is the fourth major oil spill in 33 years in North America after the following: in 1977, Hawaiian Patriot spewed over 30 million gallons of oil 300 miles off the coast of Hawaii; in the Gulf of Mexico, Ixtoc 1 spilled over 140 million gallons of oil in 1979; and Exxon Valdez was responsible for dumping over 11 million gallons of oil into the Prince William Sound of Alaska in 1989.

Major oil spills are really only a small part of the real story. 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 a pattern of feeding America’s addiction to oil, leaving in their wake sacrifice zones that affect communities, local economies, and our landscapes.

The BP Deepwater Horizon event is the largest and potentially most devastating environmental disaster the oil and gas industry has yet
to foist on Americans. However, the frequency and recurrence of these events bears closer scrutiny. Incidents occur on a monthly
and, sometimes, daily basis across the country but sadly only a portion of these make the front page or evening news.

This report provides a sampling of the oil and gas industry’s performance over the past 10 years —– the first decade of the new millennium.

These ‘lowlights’ and 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 occurred in the last decade —– the post- Exxon Valdez era, the post- Oil Pollution Act of 1990 era, when the industry said “we’ve got it under control.”


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