Skip to main content

Preventing More BP-Type Oil Disasters

Brown Pelicans Released Into Wild
Dr. Sharon K. Taylor, a veterinarian with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Alonso, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge manager, and others release a crate of Brown Pelicans into the wild. June 27, 2010.
U.S. Coast Guard Photo / PO3 Robert Brazzell

Faced with America's worst environmental disaster, Earthjustice seeks solutions in court

Deep in the Gulf of Mexico, invisible to the public's eye, the work of our nation's worst oil spill has continued— smothering coral formations, infecting the food chain, layering vast areas of ocean floor with tarry deposits, and affecting life forms in ways that can only be estimated.

The world's media couldn't get enough of the story, starting in April 2010, when BP's Deepwater Horizon well exploded, sending oil gushing for three months into the Gulf and into the headlines. But, when the well finally was capped, the oil started disappearing, taking the media with it.

The tragedy, though, remains, as does the potential for repeat spills in the Gulf and along much of America's shorelines, especially in the Arctic seas, where oil companies relentlessly seek permission to drill, despite extreme risk.

As the Gulf spill demonstrated (and 20 years ago, the Exxon Valdez spill), oil spills take an enormous toll on human communities, and are grim reapers of fishes, turtles and other endangered and threatened wildlife that Earthjustice, its clients and many others have worked for years to save from extinction.

For these reasons—and starting long before the BP spill—Earthjustice has been deeply engaged in curtailing the expansion of offshore drilling. Through a series of lawsuits, we aim to force federal agencies to do their jobs and stop being cozy with companies like BP, which was allowed to drill recklessly without an adequate plan to handle even a moderate oil spill, let alone the monster it let loose on April 20.

Through court action, we're working to stall plans by Shell to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic. The industry just can't prove it can prevent, much less clean up after, devastating Arctic oil spills.

Our legal work also forced the EPA to reveal what ingredients are in the oil dispersant Corexit, a toxics-laden product applied to Gulf waters without adequate environmental testing at an unprecedented rate. Usage was curtailed largely because of Earthjustice efforts, and may not be applied in the future without environmental review.

Related: Oil Spill Q & A with Earthjustice Attorney David Guest

Legal Work: A Selection of Earthjustice Oil Spill-related Lawsuits

  • Lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's waiving of the Well Control Rule, which requires offshore drilling safety measures that could prevent another oil rig explosion. Filed in 2019. (Press Release)
  • Lawsuits challenging Gulf of Mexico lease sales and current Gulf offshore drilling operations that threaten wildlife, human safety, and coastal communities. Filed in 2018. (Press Release)
  • Challenge to Trump’s executive order attempting to jettison a permanent ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. Filed in 2018. (Press Release | Press Release)
  • A challenge to the Trump administration’s approval of Hilcorp Alaska’s controversial Liberty project, the first offshore drilling development in federal Arctic waters. Filed in 2018. (Press Release)
  • Lawsuits challenging MMS approvals of deepwater and shallower water exploration plans for the Gulf of Mexico. Filed in 2010. ( Press Release | Case Details )
  • Challenges of MMS's approval of BP's regional plan for deepwater drilling operations in the Gulf. Filed in 2010. ( Press Release | Case Details )
  • Lawsuit against the EPA for not fully responding to our FOIA request to reveal ingredients in the dispersants. Filed in 2010. ( Press Release | Case Details )

Report: The Chaos Of Clean-Up

The Chaos Of Clean-Up

Earthjustice advocacy and litigation has revealed the dirty chemical secrets of oil dispersants used in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Read the report: The Chaos Of Clean-Up: Analysis of Potential Health and Environmental Impacts of Chemicals in Dispersant Products

Informational Graphic: By The Numbers

 By The Numbers

Did you know that the length of coastline affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was equivalent to the length of 5 Californias?
Or that the spill was nearly twenty times the size of the the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill? Learn about these and other facts in this informational graphic: Deepwater Horizon Spill: By the Numbers .

"It is actually easier to get a permit for an offshore oil well than for a hot dog stand"

Earthjustice Attorney, David Guest