Oil Spill Disaster-More Conflicts in Regulatory System

David Dykes — the federal regulator now leading his agency’s investigation of the BP oil spill — has spent five years as a senior investigator and office chief enforcing oil industry safety in the Gulf of Mexico. For much of that time, his brother was a top executive at an energy company with significant activities under Dykes’s purview. But David Dykes did not formally recuse himself from matters involving his brother’s company. No rule required him to do so. Unlike many federal agencies that make employees distance themselves from matters involving friends, relatives or former bosses, the nation’s chief oil regulatory agency had no such policy.
Now, in the wake of the BP disaster, Congress is pressing the agency formerly called the U.S. Minerals Management Service to clamp down on potential conflicts of interest. The case of David and Rodney Dykes highlights the challenges of the task. The oil industry of the Gulf Coast is an insular world in which rig foremen and the federal inspectors charged with regulating them sometimes work side by side, or grew up in the same towns and even homes.

Also in the news this weekend–BP’s use of dispersants. From the LA Times on Saturday, July 31 read Gulf oil spill: Did Coast Guard allow excessive toxic dispersants?

From the article:

Documents released by a congressional committee Saturday show that the U.S. Coast Guard appeared to flout a May 25 Obama administration directive that sought to limit the use of chemical dispersants on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to “rare cases.”

“BP carpet-bombed the ocean with these chemicals, and the Coast Guard allowed them to do it,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House energy and environment subcommittee. “After we discovered how toxic these chemicals really are, they had no business being spread across the gulf in this manner.”


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