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Deepwater Horizon

Oil Spill | Gulf of Mexico | April 2010

What Happened?

On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion, which killed 11 men, caused the rig to sink and started a catastrophic oil leak from the well. Before it was capped three months later, approximately 134 million gallons of oil had spilled into the Gulf, the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

What Were the Impacts?

The trusteesGovernment officials acting on behalf of the public when there is injury to, destruction of, loss of, or threat to natural resources. assessed injuries to natural resources—such as fish, bottom-dwelling organisms, nearshore ecosystems, birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals—and lost recreation resulting from the spill.

Through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)Investigation performed by trustees to identify injuries to natural resources caused by oil spills, hazardous substance releases, and grounding incidents in National Marine Sanctuaries, and plan restoration activities. The goal of NRDA is to restore natural resources and compensate the public for lost recreational use., we evaluated the type and amount of restoration needed in order to return the Gulf to the condition it would have been in before the spill and to compensate the public for the natural resource services that were injured or lost. The Deepwater Horizon spill resulted in the largest natural resource damage assessment ever undertaken.

What's Happening Now?

In 2011, one year after the spill, BP agreed to provide up to $1 billion toward early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, we have worked with the public and BP to identify and implement early restoration projects

We conducted dozens of public meetings and received thousands of comments which have helped us shape each phase of early restoration. These projects allowed restoration of the Gulf to begin immediately.

On October 5, 2015, we proposed a comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem restoration plan to address impacts from the spill to the Gulf of Mexico. The draft plan allocated up to $8.8 billion for restoration from a proposed settlement with BP. It was based on our thorough assessment of impacts to the Gulf's natural resources and the services they provide. 

On April 4, 2016, the court approved a settlement with BP for natural resource injuries stemming from the spill. This settlement concludes the largest civil settlement ever awarded. We will now begin implementing restoration as laid out in the Trustees’ final comprehensive restoration plan. Under this settlement, BP will pay the Trustees up to $8.8 billion for restoration to address natural resource injuries.

For more information, visit the Gulf Spill Restoration website. 

Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Early response to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion (USCG).


Visit the Gulf Spill Restoration website for a list of contacts. 

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Last updated October 5, 2022