Brit Liggett

Study Shows BP Oil Spill Could Have Been Prevented by Regulation

by , 09/30/10
filed under: Policy, Water Issues

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A new report by Member Scholars of the Center for Progressive Reform on the principle cause of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill concludes that the spill was entirely preventable and points blame at regulatory agencies, BP and the oil industry for not being vigilant about warning signs. The study points its biggest finger at incredibly lax oversight by the now defunct government agency in charge of regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) — which has been replaced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. It notes that a policy of precautionary measures against known risks — however, slight — could have easily prevented the biggest environmental disaster in American history.

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BP is responsible for this disaster, without question,” said study co-author Alyson Flournoy, CPR Member Scholar and law professor at the University of Florida. “But the Minerals Management Service’s permissive approach to its regulatory responsibilities together with inadequate legislative mandates for safety and environmental protection, and Congress’s inadequate funding of MMS created an environment that allowed BP to take shortcuts with safety, with disastrous results.” The study goes on to say that instead of doing their own research into the best safety techniques for the industry to prevent disasters MMS just adopted the industry standard. Therefore, the industry wasn’t pushed by regulation to create new safer technology.

In addition to the lack of push for new technology and safety regulations, oversight of the existing standards was poor and ineffective. Fines levied to drilling companies for lack of compliance had a max cap of $35,000. The multi-billion dollar oil agencies scoffed at the fines and didn’t think twice about paying them — a $35,000 fine is a much better deal than paying millions to update your safety equipment. The failures of MMS reach back far before the Obama administration and range from blindly using the industry’s safety standards instead of making sure they were sufficient to ignoring National Environmental Policy Act laws that say you must “consider reasonably foreseeable significant adverse impacts—catastrophic ones, in particular—even when they are improbable.

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4 Comments

  1. Top 6 Life-Saving Desig... October 15, 2010 at 11:45 am

    [...] prevailing theme this last year, especially in the wake of multiple natural disasters that involved polluting our oceans, flooding and access to clean water. Not only is it the stuff that makes the world go round, but [...]

  2. Eletruk September 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I think it’s more that enforcement hasn’t happened rather than more regulation is needed. The government office in charge of monitoring offshore drilling was doing nothing even though they knew the oil rigs were/are non compliant. Hopefully now that the department that receives funds/fees from oil companies is now separated from the department that enforces regulation, we will see less of the turn your back attitude we have seen in the past.

  3. varied thinking September 30, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    It sounds good in theory but in the real world it does\’nt happen that way. If someone can find that they can skirt around regulations and bring a project in cheaper then the regulations get tossed.

  4. worksafe September 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    It sounds good in theory but in the real world it does\’nt happen that way. If someone can find that they can skirt around regulations and bring a project in cheaper then the regulations get tossed.

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