Deepwater Horizon oil spill, USA

Deepwater Horizon Spill in Gulf of Mexico causes deaths and extensive damage; beyond compensation paid, international activists have called for recognition of Rights of Nature under universal jurisdiction


On 20 April 2010, the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and caught fire in US waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 11 workers were killed in the explosion and 17 injured. The rig was owned by Transocean on lease to BP, which was the main operator and developer of the site, with Anadarko Petroleum and MOEX Offshore (part of Mitsui Oil Exploration) as minority co-owners.

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Basic Data
NameDeepwater Horizon oil spill, USA
CountryUnited States of America
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsOil leaked from the ruptured well head until 15 July when it was temporarily stopped; approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf.
Type of PopulationUnknown
Start Date20/04/2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesAnadarko Petroleum Corporation from United States of America
Cameron International from United States of America
Halliburton from United States of America
MOEX Offshore from Japan - part of Mitsui Oil Exploration
Mitsui & Co., Ltd. from Japan
Transocean from Switzerland
Relevant government actorsU.S. Government

Government of Ecuador- Judicial System

Flow Rate Group (U.S. federal panel of scientists)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAmazon Watch

Global Alliance for Rights of Nature

Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE);

Ana Luz Valadez, Desarrollo Alternativo;

Diana Murcia, Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo;

Blanca Chancoso, ECUARUNARI;

Cecilia Cherréz, president of Acción Ecológica;

Nnimmo Bassey, OILWATCH network;

Delfín Tenesaca, president of ECUARUNARI;

Alberto Acosta;

Líder Gongora, C-CONDEM
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local government/political parties
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Deaths
Potential: Other environmental related diseases, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Under negotiation
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The explosion and spill have given rise to many lawsuits. By early December 2010, hundreds of lawsuits had been filed against the companies involved. Lawsuits have been brought in both federal and state courts.

On 15 December 2010, the US Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit against BP, Transocean, Anadarko, MOEX (part of Mitsui Oil Exploration) and the insurer of the rig QBE Underwriting/Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036 (part of Lloyds of London). The lawsuit will be included in the consolidated proceedings and includes claims under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act. On 15 November 2012 BP announced it had reached a $4.5 billion settlement with the US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission. BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges and to pay a $1.26 billion fine to the Department of Justice. The company will also pay $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences. BP will also pay $525 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Sources and Materials

'BP Still Faces Probes, Fines', Guy Chazan, Wall Street Journal, 20 Sep 2010

'Control of Oil Spill Compensation Fund Shifts to Independent Administrator', Andrew Restuccia, Washington Independent, 23 Aug 2010

'Oil Well Is Almost Dead but Legal Wrangling Just Beginning for BP', Lea Winerman, PBS NewsHour, 17 Aug 2010

'Criminal probe of oil spill to focus on 3 firms and their ties to regulators', Jerry Markon, Washington Post, 28 Jul 2010

'Legal fallout from Gulf oil spill as massive as the catastrophe itself', Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, 28 Jul 2010

'BP hit by avalanche of compensation claims over US oil spill', Andrew Clark, Guardian (UK), 31 May 2010

'BP Oil Spill Lawsuits and Legal Issues', David Goguen, NOLO, Aug 2010


1. Rights of Nature – The Catastrophe

2. Nature – How Bps 18.7 billion oil spill settlement could help the gulf of mexico


Upside down world BP Sued in Ecuador for violating the rights of nature
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Meta Information
ContributorElodie Aba
Last update16/01/2019