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Americans would pay small fee to prevent another oil spill, study finds

In this April 21, 2010, aerial file photo, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

PHOENIX — More than seven years ago, nearly 140 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and causing an environmental crisis that still continues today.

According to a new study authored by a Arizona State University professor, the value of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is billions more than what was originally thought.

Kerry Smith, an Arizona State University professor and one of the study’s authors, said the study found “households in the United States would be willing to pay at least $17.2 billion to avoid another oil spill.”

Smith and 19 other researchers developed a survey from more than 10,000 interviews over the course of five years to estimate the value of the natural environment if there was no spill.

One of the goals of the study was to “assess how people evaluate harm to the natural environment as an asset, that we all collectively own,” Smith said.

The survey asked participants a hypothetical question: If a referendum were placed on a ballot to develop this program and prevent a similar spill, but your taxes would increase, how would you vote?

The result? The households surveyed said they would be willing to pay a one-time $153 tax to prevent another oil spill.

Smith said the survey found that Americans put a very conservative value on what they believe the natural resources destroyed by the oil spill are worth.

“The average person [believes] that natural assets are extremely important,” Smith said. “They care about them, they want them protected and they are prepared to pay to do that.”

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