National Oil Spill Commission releases final report
by Kert Davies
January 11, 2011
Today, the US National Commission released the final report into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The Commission has leveled a crucial warning with this report, detailing for the history books that which is broken in the oil drilling industry and the bureaucracy which regulates it.
The oil industry has not fixed fundamental “systemic” flaws identified by the report and remains unprepared to prevent such accidents and deal with the consequences.
The government apparatus that should protect us from oil disasters remains underfunded and understaffed and not up to the task of protecting the nation’s environmental security.
When, not if, a disaster like the BP blowout happens again, we will all be able to point to the Commission report for that which we failed to avert such a catastrophe. The American public should not be satisfied with ‘we told you so’ when that happens.
The oil industry will resist the recommendations of the Commission at its own peril. The Administration will do right by taking swift action under existing authority to stop risky offshore oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic and work with Congress to add to the slim government resources available to redouble regulation of existing drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and spill response apparatus nationwide.
Beyond US borders, the Commission warns that multinational oil companies like BP and Shell and drilling contractors like Halliburton and Transocean operate in oceans worldwide, making this a global threat.
Governments around the world should heed the recommendations made by the Commission and examine their own regulatory apparatus around offshore drilling, including any financial liability caps that are in place as is the case in the US. Eliminating the cap on financial liability will more accurately price risky deepwater drilling activity in the marketplace.
The Commission recommendation for an industry-run safety organization like the nuclear industry set up after Three Mile Island fails to meet the scale of the problem with a commensurate response. The public deserves better. The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations has no public transparency and failed to avert the most significant ‘near miss’ partial meltdown of the Davis Besse reactor in Ohio in 2002.
The Commission recommends participation of NOAA and the USGS in drilling lease review with the Interior Department. We hope this will bolster the consideration of environmental risk by bringing more natural scientists into the room.
We back the recommendation to spend the majority of money from the BP disaster fines and penalties on environmental restoration in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s the least we can do for the Gulf, its creatures and people, and serves as a warning for those at fault the next time this happens of the true cost of drilling for oil.