Coast state institutions and the National Institutes of Health to establish critical baseline data as the foundation for subsequent research as well as to support study of the health of the oil spill workers and volunteers. Smaller “bridge” grants, totaling $1.5 million, were awarded in the summer of 2011, allowing researchers with National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grants to complete their research. The first major competition for research consortia was completed in fall 2011, with the awarding of $112.5 million in grants to eight research consortia. These consortia completed their first year of activities in December 2012. Smaller investigator grants totaling $22.5 million were awarded in fall 2012.4 A new request for proposals for research directed to larger overall research questions will entertain proposals in the early part of 2014 for the next 3-year period.5
Additionally, a November 5, 2012, settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and BP Exploration and Production, for the latter’s guilty plea for a number of violations related to the Macondo blowout, provides several billion dollars for restoration, research, education, outreach, and monitoring.6 An additional settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Transocean Deepwater Inc. was reached on February 14, 2013, regarding Transocean’s violation of the CWA via the DWH oil spill.7 Included in these two settlements were awards of nearly $2.5 billion dollars to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to remedy harm and eliminate or reduce the risk of future harm to Gulf Coast natural resources and $500 million dollars to the National Academy of Sciences for a program focused on human health and environmental protection, including issues relating to offshore drilling and hydrocarbon production and transportation in the GoM and on the Outer Continental Shelf.
Additional research funds are being provided by federal entities, states, nongovernmental organizations, and private foundations. For instance, almost immediately following the spill, the NSF made available significant funds from its programs to support DWH oil spill research. More than 150 RAPID grants and Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) RAPID grants were awarded to ocean scientists for research directed to certain aspects of the spill. Subsequent NSF funding has been awarded through the competitive grants system. Thus, from an unprecedented environmental event, significant funding has become available to conduct research across a broad spectrum of issues.
The final amount of funds to be directed to various activities through potentially numerous avenues depends on the outcome of legal proceedings between the Department of Justice and the responsible parties. The NRDA process and fines determined under the Oil Pollution Act, the establishment and collection of penalties under the CWA, and plans for Gulf Coast restoration create unprecedented opportunities for research and restoration, to address not only the damage caused by the spill but also the longer-term impacts of a number of human activities on the GoM ecosystem. Restoration will directly respond to damages from the spill, but it offers the opportunity for a system recovery that considers human and natural systems resilience.