Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Final Report of the Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The Commission, appointed by President Obama and co-chaired by former Democratic Senator Bob Graham and former EPA chief (under Bush I) William Reilly, makes numerous recommendations for improving offshor drilling safety and environmental protection, including the following:

  •  Congress should create an independent safety agency within the Department of the Interior to oversee all aspects of offshore drilling safety.
  • When drafting offshore oil leases, under existing statutory authorities, Interior should ensure that the industry pays the costs of regulatory oversight, as do other regulated industries, such as telecommunications. Those regulatory oversight costs should include the budget of the new independent safety agency (see above) and oil-spill response planning, which should be borne by the agency, rather than American taxpayers.
  • With respect to the increased risks associated with deepwater drilling in areas with less well understood geologies, Interior should toughen its baseline prescriptive safety regulations and require oil companies to demonstrate that they have undertaken thorough risk assessments and are prepared to manage all risks pertaining to planned operations.
  • Congress should enact a statute that would create within the Interior Department a distinct environmental science office headed by a chief scientist with well-specified responsibilities regarding environmental review and protection.
  • The oil and gas industry should adopt, as some other high-risk industries already have, a "Safety Institute," as an industry-created, self-policing entity responsible for developing, adopting, and enforcing standards of excellence to ensure continuous improvement in safety. 
  • Each house of Congress should assign a committee with responsibility for conducting annual oversight hearings to consider the state of technology, application of safety processes, and environmental protection in offshore oil exploration and drilling.
  • The President should seek increased funding for agencies with oil-spill response responsibilities, including Interior and the Coast Guard.
  • The President should create an inter-agency review process for oil-spill response planning. Final response plans should be made publicly available.
  • Interior, the Coast Guard, and the Department of Energy should develop in-house expertise to effectively oversee containment operations in the immediate aftermath of a well blowout.
  • As a permit condition for deepwater drilling, Interior should require oil and gas companies to (a) design wells in ways that anticipate the potential need for containment should a blowout occur and to (b) have immediate access to containment technologies.
  • Congress should significantly increase the Oil Polllution Act's liability cap and financial responsibility requirements for offshore facilities.
Many of the Commission's recommendations are based on its analysis of what other countries, such as Norway and the UK, already require. The full report, supporting documents, and a press kit that contains "Highlights of Key Recommendations" can be viewed here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I actively moderate comments for spam, advertisements, and abusive or offensive language.