BP says Gulf spill shoreline cleanup operations are over

Four years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are ending cleanup operations along the shoreline.

The Coast Guard completed its shoreline cleanup plan on the last three shoreline miles in Louisiana, hitting a milestone in cleanup of the Gulf Coast after the oil giant's Macondo well spilled millions of barrels of crude oil into the ocean in 2010.

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The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers, and the spill lasted more than 85 days. In all, BP said it spent $14 billion and expended 70 million man-hours to clean up 778 miles.

“Reaching this milestone is the result of the extraordinary efforts of thousands of people from BP, local communities, government agencies, and academic institutions working together,” John Minge, chairman and president of BP America, said in a statement.  

“Immediately following the Deepwater Horizon accident, BP committed to cleaning the shoreline and supporting the Gulf’s economic and environmental recovery. Completing active cleanup is further indication that we are keeping that commitment," Minge said.

But the Coast Guard says cleanup is still far from over, adding that BP did not coordinate its announcement with them, which does not fully grasp that cleanup efforts are ongoing.

The shoreline plan may be finished, but for those last three miles the Coast Guard is now transitioning to a Middle Response process, which also opens up six active National Response Center cases. The move to classify those three miles as Middle Response cases doesn't mean the cleanup is less stringent. In fact, the process requires enhanced equipment and more focused personnel.

"Our response posture has evolved to target re-oiling events on coastline segments that were previously cleaned,” Capt. Thomas Sparks, the federal on-scene coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon Response, said in a statement. “But let me be absolutely clear:  This response is not over---not by a long shot. The transition to the Middle Response process does not end clean-up operations, and we continue to hold the responsible party accountable for Deepwater Horizon cleanup costs."

Oil that spilled into the Gulf waters was removed in 2010, according to a multiagency group working for the Coast Guard.

BP has also paid $12.9 billion in damage claims and other payments connected to the spill.

The oil firm said it will continue to "keep resources in place" to remove additional oil from the 2010 spill if it is identified by the Coast Guard.