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Offshore Oil Explosion: 11 Dead, Environmental Worries

By Jason Beahm on April 26, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Transocean Ltd. oil rig, contracted to BP, exploded off the coast of Louisiana and then sank, likely causing 11 deaths and significant environmental damage. On Friday, rescue workers called off the search for 11 missing workers.

The lawsuit was filed in New Orleans last Thursday on behalf of a Mississippi man who worked on the rig and is one of 11 people missing after the oil explosion.

The suit says Shane Roshto, of Amite County, Miss., was thrown overboard in the Tuesday night explosion and is feared dead.

In addition to loss of human life, there are concerns of a major environmental disaster.  A tank holding 700,000 galloons of diesel fuel was onboard.  Much of the oil can be seen floating on top of the water.  In addition, there are concerns that the well could be leaking from the ocean floor.  However, late last week, Katherine McNamara, a fireman with the Coast Guard said, "It does not appear that oil is emanating from the hole."

Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times, reported that the Coast Guard is using all of the tools at its disposal to investigate any further environmental damage.

Ms. McNamara said the assessment was made by using a remote-controlled device equipped with a camera and sonar. Officials with the Coast Guard and BP, the company leasing the rig, said they were still trying to determine why oil was not escaping from the well, and whether that remains a possibility.

This incident is worth keeping an eye on.  The magnitude of the disaster, coupled with the dark irony of it occurring on Earth Day, is likely to bring back the off-shore drilling debate.  In addition, expect additional lawsuits and potential regulatory review of the incident. 

Update:  The New York Times is now reporting that oil is in fact leaking from the sunken rig, perhaps as much as 42,000 gallons per day.  This poses a significant environmental hazard as the oil has already spread to a 20-by-20 mile area. 

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