Oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico didn’t get much attention during the 2005 hurricane season. Thankfully none were so catastrophic as to overtake any of the catastrophes unfolding on land during Katrina and Rita. But as the folks at SKYTRUTH document, there were still plenty of spills.

And according to the Minerals Management Service (the part of the Department of the Interior responsible for overseeing production in federal waters), Katrina and Rita were the greatest natural disasters to oil and gas development in the history of the Gulf.

Furthermore, the impact hasn’t stopped. Due to the oil infrastructure wreckage, three boats have been damaged, including one that led to a massive spill back in November.

The recently released Minerals Management Service (MMS) analysis of the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico details:

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  • the destruction of 115 oil platforms and the damage of 52 others;
  • the damage of 183 pipelines, 64 of those major pipelines larger than 10″ in diameter; and
  • 418 “minor” pollution incidents.

(A minor incident is less than 500 barrels of oil spilled that doesn’t reach the coastline.)

MMS estimates that 3,050 of the Gulf’s 4,000 platforms and 22,000 of the 33,000 miles of Gulf pipelines were in the direct path of either of the hurricanes. (SKYTRUTH puts it in perspective.) Because of the large amount of infrastructure in the path of hurricane-force winds and waves, the amount of damage was substantial. Category 4 Rita actually caused more destruction and damage than Category 5 Katrina, according to the tally, due to its path.

Much of that debris is still in the Gulf and uncharted, making the waters treacherous for boats of all kinds for a long time to come.

With all this damage to the Gulf, the high price of oil and natural gas, and gigantic oil company profits, you’d think that at least the royalties from Gulf extraction going to the U.S. Treasury would be increasing. But you’d be wrong.

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