Our guest blogger is Michael Conathan, Center for American Progress Director of Oceans Policy.
One year ago, the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon erupted in a torrent of oil, gas, drilling mud, and flames, claiming the lives of 11 men and setting off an 87-day environmental nightmare. The explosion also triggered an equally ferocious barrage of rhetoric in the nation’s capital. A frantic burst of congressional hearings emerged as the immediate oversight response. As usual, they were full of sound and fury—sadly but not surprisingly—signifying nothing.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that 101 oil-spill-related bills were introduced in the 111th Congress, which came to a close in 2010. Exactly zero were enacted into law. Another 15 have been introduced so far this year—none of which has been acted upon by its committee of jurisdiction.
This is an abject failure on the part of the legislative branch when obvious fixes remain on the table. Mandated liability limits for economic damages incurred by local residents are shamefully low and no mechanism is in place to ensure any fines BP or other responsible parties are forced to pay would actually be returned to a region still devastated by the companies’ negligence.
Read Michael Conathan’s comprehensive analysis of legislative efforts to protect America from oil disasters in “The Gulf One Year Later: Beyond Rhetoric.