#whatstheplanepa campaign

The Problem: Dispersants

During the 2010 BP oil disaster, unprecedented amounts of toxic oil-based dispersants were used to allegedly minimize harm to people and wildlife from the crude oil itself.

Aerial spraying and deep sea injection continued daily, for months. Nothing like this had ever been tried before — it was all a giant experiment.

Oil and dispersants create a toxic cocktail that can be lethal to wildlife and humans. One study found that dispersants can make oil up to 52 times more toxic.

Military aircraft drops an oil-dispersing chemical into the Gulf of Mexico May 5, 2010, as part of the Deepwater Horizon Response effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)
Military aircraft drops an oil-dispersing chemical into the Gulf of Mexico May 5, 2010, as part of the Deepwater Horizon Response effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)
©Julie Dermansky
©Julie Dermansky

This affects everyone.

By not maintaining a current, science-based national emergency response plan for oil spills, the EPA is putting at risk some 133 million Americans who live near the coasts – that’s 39 percent of the U.S. population. The EPA is putting at risk millions more Americans who visit and recreate at coasts – and the millions more who live near lakes, rivers, or along oil pipeline and railroad corridors.

It’s not a matter of if, but when the next oil-related disaster will occur.


Our Solutions

Legal Action

On January 30, 2020, ALERT with its allies filed a lawsuit to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize its rules governing use of chemical dispersants in oil spill response.

  • The National Contingency Plan was last updated 26 years and uses outdated science to justify expedited and unlimited use of toxic dispersants.
  • The plan fails to implement inclusion of local government and citizens, as required by law, to combat government and industry complacency.
  • The plan fails to take into account unconventional oil that sinks (tar sands dilbit) or explodes (fracked gas and oil).
©Julie Dermansky
©Julie Dermansky

Citizen Action

Call EPA. Demand that EPA finalize the rules governing dispersant use in 2020. Demand that EPA stop offshore drilling until it has updated the entire National Contingency Plan with 21st-century science and technology.
Call your Governor. Demand that the state revoke preauthorization of hazardous chemical dispersants!
Engage your local city council or Tribal government. Get local support for Local Emergency Planning Committees and Citizens’ Advisory Councils to build local capacity to prepare and protect first responders and citizens during oil-chemical disasters.
Call your Congressional delegation. Ask that Congress authorize funding through the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for local government and citizens to support building local capacity to engage in oil spill preparation and response.
Download our Advocate Toolkit below to get started.

One-minute ways you can help.

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©Julie Dermansky
©Julie Dermansky

The Advocate Toolkit.

Know the facts with our quick and easy-to-understand Fact Sheet

Submit a resolution in just a few clicks with our Resolution Template for Tribal Councils

Submit a resolution in just a few clicks with our Resolutions Template for City Councils

Use our sample letters to contact the EPA, your congressional delegates and your state governor

Senator Markey calls upon EPA to address concerns about revised regulations governing the use of chemical dispersants

April 29, 2024

Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey sent a letter to the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) urging a response to the revised regulations…

EPA’s New Rules on Oil Dispersants, Explained.

June 15, 2023

This background is intended to broaden the public understanding of the scope and significance of the 2023 updates to our…

The Guardian: Environmental Protection Agency US government toughens rules on chemicals used to break up oil slicks

June 15, 2023

“Environmental activists sued EPA to update regulations, after thousands of people sickened from Deepwater Horizon cleanup The Environmental Protection Agency…