|the spill from space, credit: NASA|
The damage figure was arrived at by a team of researchers retained by NOAA who randomly surveyed a large sample of American adults that took three years to complete. Based on the survey, researchers found that the average household was willing to spend $153 to insure 100% spill-free operations in the future. That figure was extrapolated to reach the final figure of $17.2 billion. Researchers considered the individual contribution size to be "eye-opening", but an accurate indication of how valuable a clean environment is to Americans.