National Oil Spill Commission Releases Final Report


The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill And Offshore Drilling, established in late May 2010 in response to April's BP Macondo oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, released its final report on Tuesday. The document lays out details of seven (7) conclusions reached by the Commission. Those conclusion are reprinted below.
Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling
Conclusion taken from Deepwater: The Gulf Oil Disaste and the Future of Offshore Drilling (p. vii):
  • 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.

According to Co-chairs Sen. Bob Graham and Mr. William R. Kelly, and the five other member of the Commission, the BP oil disaster "...undermined public faith in the energy industry, government regulators, and even our own capability as a nation to respond to crises," (p. viii). Describing the Gulf of Mexico and its varied ecosystems as a "unique American asset," Commission member also advocated in favor of beginning a restoration effort on the Gulf of Mexico "seriously and soon," and on a scale comparable to similar efforts undertaken on the Chesapeake Bay, in the Florida Everglades, and on the U.S. Great Lakes (p. x).

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