by Kiley Kroh and Michael Conathan
Yesterday, former members of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released a report card evaluating the progress made by the federal government, Congress, and industry toward implementing the critical reforms recommended by the Commission in their 2011 report.
None of them make the honor roll. While the harshest rebukes were aimed at Congress, the report card finds that overall, “in every category, much more needs to be done.”
Big Oil, on the other hand, touted the reforms made by the oil and gas industry. Oil & Gas Journal reported “the industry has always demonstrated a strong commitment to operate safely and responsibly offshore, and has deepened that [sic] the commitment in the nearly 2 years since the Macondo well accident.”
Erik Milito, API’s upstream and industry operations group director, said “the bar continues to rise, the commitment is stronger, and the mechanisms are in place to support the strongest safety standards possible.”
Such assurances from API are dubious at best, considering the Commission’s 2011 report found a direct causal relationship between API’s role as the industry’s principal lobbyist and public policy advocate and “compromised” safety standards that were a direct contributor to the BP disaster:
API’s proffered safety and technical standards were a major casualty of this conflicted role … Because the Interior Department has in turn relied on API in developing its own regulatory safety standards, API’s shortfalls have undermined the entire federal regulatory system.
John Watson, CEO of oil giant Chevron, told USA Today that he’s confident production can occur safely, saying, “we’ve learned from the Macondo incident and others and have steadily improved our practices as an industry. We’re in a much better position as an industry today than we were a few years ago.”
That’s a questionable self-evaluation from a company recently slapped with an $11 billion lawsuit and criminal charges for a November 2011 spill off the coast Brazil and responsible for setting the ocean ablaze with a natural gas fire in Nigeria this year that burned for 46 days and took the lives of two workers.
While both the federal government and industry have taken steps to improve the serious shortfalls in safety and oversight that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a great deal remains to be done – especially as the industry looks to move into frontier areas like the Arctic that are fraught with uncertainty and risk.
The Commission gave the administration an overall grade of B, industry a C+ and Congress a D. (The ocean conservation group Oceana released a similar report card yesterday comprised of nothing but D’s and F’s.)
Let’s take a look at the commission’s findings.