All Is Wrong in the Horizon: BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

On May 22, 2010 President Obama established the National  Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.  Here are some the Commission’s Conclusions.  For more details on the final report of the Commission, see  Final Report released January 11, 2011.

According to the Commission:

• The explosive loss of the Macondo well could have been prevented.

• The immediate causes of the Macondo well blowout can be traced to a series of identifiable  mistakes made by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean that reveal such systematic failures in risk  management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry.

• Deepwater energy exploration and production, particularly at the frontiers of experience, involve risks for which neither industry nor government has been adequately prepared, but for which they can and must be prepared in the future.

• To assure human safety and environmental protection, regulatory oversight of leasing, energy exploration, and production require reforms even beyond those significant reforms already initiated since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Fundamental reform will be needed in both the structure of those in charge of regulatory oversight and their internal decisionmaking process to ensure their political autonomy, technical expertise, and their full consideration of environmental protection concerns.

• Because regulatory oversight alone will not be sufficient to ensure adequate safety, the oil and gas industry will need to take its own, unilateral steps to increase dramatically safety throughout the industry, including self-policing mechanisms that supplement governmental enforcement.

• The technology, laws and regulations, and practices for containing, responding to, and cleaning up spills lag behind the real risks associated with deepwater drilling into large, high-pressure reservoirs of oil and gas located far offshore and thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface. Government must close the existing gap and industry must support rather than resist that effort.

• Scientific understanding of environmental conditions in sensitive environments in deep Gulf waters, along the region’s coastal habitats, and in areas proposed for more drilling, such as the Arctic, is inadequate. The same is true of the human and natural impacts of oil spills.

We reach these conclusions, and make necessary recommendations, in a constructive spirit: we aim to promote changes that will make American offshore energy exploration and production far safer, today and in the future.

More broadly, the disaster in the Gulf undermined public faith in the energy industry, government regulators, and even our own capability as a nation to respond to crises. It is our hope that a thorough and rigorous accounting, along with focused suggestions for reform, can begin the process of restoring confidence. There is much at stake, not only for the people directly affected in the Gulf region, but for the American people at large. The tremendous resources that exist within our outer continental shelf belong to the nation as a whole. The federal government’s authority over the shelf is accordingly plenary, based on its power as both the owner of the resources and in its regulatory capacity as sovereign to protect public health, safety, and welfare. To be allowed to drill on the outer continental shelf is a privilege to be earned, not a private right to be exercised.

From the Recommendations of the  BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission

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