President Obama's commission to investigate the Gulf oil spill
suggested wide-reaching reforms to avoid another disaster, including
new oversight of the offshore-drilling industry.
In its final report released Tuesday, the National Oil Spill
Commission is recommending the federal government increase not only
the budgets of agencies charged with regulating the oil and gas
industry, but also that it remove the $75 million liability cap to
cover economic damages caused by future oil spills.
The commission's 398-page report follows a six-month
investigation into the Deepwater Horizon explosion that resulted in
the discharge of 4.9 million barrels (205 million gallons) of oil
into the Gulf of Mexico.
Former Sen. Bob Graham (D), a commission co-chair, said in a
press conference Tuesday that the report was meant to create "a
factual record" of the incident, and purposely did not charge any of
the companies involved with the disaster with criminal misconduct.
Mr. Graham said the Department of Justice would use the report to
assess future legal action taken against BP, Transocean, and
Halliburton, the three leading players involved in the disaster.
The report offers an exhaustive examination of what caused the
oil rig to explode April 20, the response, and its consequences on
the regional economy and Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Besides showing
how the explosion was preventable, the commission uses its findings
to create a portrait of government agencies it says lagged behind
industry in regard to engineering expertise and technology, which it
says is the basis for its recommendations of increased funding and
"The technology, laws and regulations, and practices for
containing, responding to, and cleaning up the spills lag behind the
real risk associated with deepwater drilling ... government must
close the existing gap and industry must support rather than resist
that effort," the report states.
Among the commission's many recommendations:
- Increased and more comprehensive drilling, production, and
emergency response standards need to be established that are
specific to individual environments or operations. These new
measures will mean a greater frequency of audits. The time to
evaluate drilling leases should be extended from 30 to 60 days.
In the drilling permit process, operators will be required to
show regulators a profound understanding of the geography of the
high-risk area and a proven track record of competence. They must
demonstrate that they have the financial capability to complete the
job. Oil operators should also be able to show that all components
of the well - particularly the blowout preventer - are equipped with
sensors that can provide accurate diagnostic information even during
- Congress should authorize a new agency within the Department of
the Interior that will oversee operational and occupational safety
independent of the leasing program. Commission Co-Chair William
Reilly described the agency as being headed by a person with "long-
term industry knowledge and experience [who] cannot be removed or
politically interfered with." In order to stack the agency with
regulators with the same level of engineering and technical
experience as those in the private sector, Mr. Reilly said
competitive salaries in line with industry are needed.
- The Environmental Protection Agency needs to update its
procedures for testing chemical dispersants. Reilly said that the
pre-approval process for dispersants needs to involve testing that
reflects "real time situations" rather than just sticking to a
single standard. …