Halliburton has plead guilty to destroying evidence in the investigation surrounding 2010's Gulf of Mexico Oil spill, the largest accidental oil spill in history. This case represents a major milestone in how the world understands environmental damage, and culpability for it.
Reuters reports the oilfield services company will be required to fork over "a maximum $200,000 statutory fine." The company also made a voluntary $55-million payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This isn't exactly a huge hit for the company. Second-quarter earnings results, released earlier this week, show Halliburton's revenue rose 1.1% to a record $7.3 billion dollars, with net income of $679-million.
The environmental impact of the spill has been difficult to calculate. Reports from the US Fish and Wildlife Service explore the potential impact on marine life and habitats, while the Center for Biological Diversity compiles federal data, scientific research and media accounts to predict "the true cost of the damage to wildlife species, "estimating that the Center estimates that approximately 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the disaster."
With much of the oil oozing into the ocean's depths, the spill's effects on the coast – while keenly felt – have not been as dramatic as those observed with, say, the Exxon Valdez disaster. Investigations conducted with deep-sea robotic vehicles by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) reveal the ramifications for deep-sea coral communities in the Gulf have been substantial.