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Politifact: 7,000 barrels spilled into gulf in decade before now

The statement

"In the last 10 years we've only had 7,000 barrels of oil spilled in the gulf … not counting hurricanes. This well is spewing that amount every day-and-a-half."

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., May 4 in an interview on CNN

The ruling

In the wake of the gulf oil spill, critics of offshore drilling are calling on lawmakers to rethink domestic energy policy.

But Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., says the industry has a good record.

Oil production — a major industry in her home state — should not be shut down because of one accident, she argued in an interview on CNN.

"In the last 10 years we've only had 7,000 barrels of oil spilled in the gulf … not counting hurricanes," she told host John King. "This well is spewing that amount every day-and-a-half. So relatively speaking to the other wells that have been drilled, this is spilling a huge amount of oil."

We're not going to rule on Landrieu's underlying point, that oil drilling is safe, which is a matter of opinion. But we can explore whether she is correct about the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon accident compared with others in the past decade.

Landrieu's office pointed us to a document prepared by Minerals Management Service, the Department of Interior arm that oversees oil production. According to the report, 31,122 barrels of crude, diesel, lube oil and gasoline were spilled in the gulf between 2000 and 2009. That includes 24,069 barrels spilled during six hurricanes. The difference between those two numbers is 7,053 — roughly the amount cited by Landrieu.

So, based on those numbers, Landrieu is correct.

But federal authorities say it's difficult to estimate the amount of oil flowing into the gulf. Initially, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that about 1,000 barrels of oil were leaking each day. NOAA increased that estimate to about 5,000 barrels a day (about 210,000 gallons). But scientists say it could be far more than 5,000.

So Landrieu is close with the 7,000 figure, but there's uncertainty about the actual amount spewing from the leak. We find her claim Mostly True.

For more rulings, go to PolitiFact.com.

Politifact: 7,000 barrels spilled into gulf in decade before now 05/17/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 17, 2010 9:59pm]
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