Deepwater Oil Drilling Regulations – one year after the BP spill, limited progress

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar swears i...

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It is not easy to get new federal regulations in place, even after a catastrophic event. Example one is the regulation of high-powered financial activities on Wall St. and example two is deepwater oil drilling.   Regarding the second one, both the NYTimes and the WashPost had one year retrospective articles in the past two days. Some details from the NYTimes, April 17, are as follows: Regulation of Offshore Rigs Is a Work in Progress

A year after BP’s Macondo well blew out, killing 11 men and spewing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the much-maligned federal agency responsible for policing offshore drilling has been remade, with a tough new director, an awkward new name and a sheaf of stricter safety rules. It is also trying to put some distance between itself and the industry it regulates. But is it fixed? The simple answer is no. Even those who run the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service concede that it will be years before they can establish a robust regulatory regime able to minimize the risks to workers and the environment while still allowing exploration offshore.

“We are much safer today than we were a year ago,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversees the agency, “but we know we have more to do.”

Oil industry executives and their allies in Congress said that the Obama administration, in its zeal to overhaul the agency, has lost sight of what they believe the agency’s fundamental mission should be — promoting the development of the nation’s offshore oil and gas resources. Environmentalists said the agency, now known as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, has made only cosmetic changes and remains too close to the people it is supposed to regulate.

Even the officials who run it, Mr. Salazar and the new director, Michael R. Bromwich, admit that they have a long way to go before government can provide the kind of rigorous oversight demanded by the complex, highly technical and deeply risky business of drilling for oil beneath the sea.

The seven-member commission named by President Obama to investigate the BP accident looked at the regulatory failures that contributed to it, and its conclusions were blunt.

“M.M.S. became an agency systematically lacking the resources, technical training or experience in petroleum engineering that is absolutely critical to ensuring that offshore drilling is being conducted in a safe and responsible manner,” the panel said in its final report, issued in January. “For a regulatory agency to fall so short of its essential safety mission is inexcusable.”

Many of those flaws remain, according to William K. Reilly, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who was one of two chairmen of the commission. He said last week that Mr. Bromwich was doing a creditable job, but that the agency still lacked the technical expertise needed to oversee such a specialized industry. “They changed the name, but all the people are the same,” Mr. Reilly said. “It’s embarrassing.”

1 thought on “Deepwater Oil Drilling Regulations – one year after the BP spill, limited progress

  1. BP keeps going and now I wonder what is the status of the DOJ lawsuit on behalf of the US against BP? I have heard nothing. There are still over 500 private law suits according to my understanding. This story is not over by a longshot IMO.

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