Disaster in the Gulf: Final report released
Today, the Commission that was assembled by President Obama immediately after the Deep Water Horizon gulf oil disaster released their final report about the disaster.
The verdict: If the industry does not change how they operate and the government does not adjust its regulative policies, another disaster is inevitable.
That’s a frightful forecast.
Even if you did not follow the news reports around the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a quick scan of the table of contents within the report would give you a very good sense of the events that led up to and followed the oil spill that was labeled “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced”. From Part 1, “The Path to Tragedy” and the quote, “Everyone involved with the job… was completely satisfied…” through Part 2, “Explosion and Aftermath” – “But, who cares, it’s done, end of story [we] will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job” to the final section, Part 3, “Lessons Learned” – “Safety is not proprietary“, the table of contents powerfully highlights the milestone perspectives that characterized the disaster at every point.
Overall, the report gives a methodical take on the events leading up to and giving rise to the disaster, and the actions (and inactions) taken that caused further difficulty. Finally, and probably of the most value, are the recommendations for changes in how the oil industry currently operates and the level of government regulation required.
Below is the summary of conclusions the Commission made, coming out of their six-month investigative report.
- The explosive loss of the Macondo well could have been prevented.
- The immediate causes of the Macondo well blowout can be traced to a series of identifiable mistakes made by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean that reveal such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry.
- Deepwater energy exploration and production, particularly at the frontiers of experience, involve risks for which neither industry nor government has been adequately prepared, but for which they can and must be prepared in the future.
- To assure human safety and environmental protection, regulatory oversight of leasing, energy exploration, and production require reforms even beyond those significant reforms already initiated since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Fundamental reform will be needed in both the structure of those in charge of regulatory oversight and their internal decisionmaking process to ensure their political autonomy, technical expertise, and their full consideration of environmental protection concerns.
- Because regulatory oversight alone will not be sufficient to ensure adequate safety, the oil and gas industry will need to take its own, unilateral steps to increase dramatically safety throughout the industry, including self-policing mechanisms that supplement governmental enforcement.
- The technology, laws and regulations, and practices for containing, responding to, and cleaning up spills lag behind the real risks associated with deepwater drilling into large, high-pressure reservoirs of oil and gas located far offshore and thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface. Government must close the existing gap and industry must support rather than resist that effort.
- Scientific understanding of environmental conditions in sensitive environments in deep Gulf waters, along the region’s coastal habitats, and in areas proposed for more drilling, such as the Arctic, is inadequate. The same is true of the human and natural impacts of oil spills.
The report is available for free download. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading it. It’s well-written, easy to follow, and fascinating. More than that, it’s a window into the changes necessary to prevent future disasters such as the Deep Water Horizon oil spill from happening again and spotlighting those who are accountable for change.
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