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The black crude keeps flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from an uncapped oil rig, the worst oil leak in U.S. history.
On May 28, the chairman of BP upgraded the severity of the oil spill from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig from "very modest" to an "environmental catastrophe." That followed a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that said the Gulf spill had eclipsed the Exxon Valdez disaster as the worst in U.S. history.
But where does this oil spill rank when you consider the world's worst in the last 50 years?
The Valdez spill only ranks 34th or 35th on the list of the world's worst oil spills. We'll take a look at some of the world's worst, keeping in mind that the estimates of flow are not always exact.
Because the Deepwater Horizon is most frequently compared to the Exxon Valdez, including in this article by Brad Marten of Marten Law, let's start there.
The Valdez, which was carrying 53 million gallons of crude oil, hit a reef in Alaska's pristine Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, and spilled an estimated 10.8 million gallons. The USGS has estimated that 504,000 to more than 1 million gallons of crude oil a day have been leaking from the Deepwater Horizon since it exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers.
The World's Worst Spills
According to a list compiled by Will Wright, the Valdez spill was minor compared to these incidents:
Santa Barbara And The Modern Environmental Movement
The oil spill that many credit with spurring the modern U.S. environmental movement occurred on Jan. 28, 1969, when a blowout of a Union Oil platform six miles offshore of California caused anywhere from 80,000 to 3 million barrels of crude oil to spill into the Santa Barbara Channel in the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and onto the beaches of Santa Barbara County. The spill fouled the coastline from Goleta to Rincon and all four of the Channel Islands. Thousands of birds died. No new drilling has been approved off the California coast since the catastrophe.
Oil Spill Resources
Visit the Gulf Spill Information Hub on the LexisNexis Emerging Issues Law Community for news, commentaries, podcasts and videos related to the Gulf oil spill. Lexis.com subscribers can find Deepwater Horizon-related filings here. If you do not have a lexis.com ID, you can get information on how to subscribe here.
To see a constantly updated tally of estimated gallons leaked from the Deepwater Horizon, visit the PBS NewsHour Gulf Oil Tracker.
More information on the world's worst oil spills is available at Infoplease, EnviroWonk and Wikkipedia. BP has also set up a Gulf of Mexico Response site.