After the BP disaster, the federal government made a lot of promises to Gulf residents – promises about ensuring safety compliance from the oil & gas industry and prioritizing environmental protection. Unfortunately, five years later, the federal agency in charge of monitoring the industry is shirking its commitment to the people of the Gulf.
Although the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement‘s (BSEE) website says they work “to promote safety, protect the environment, and conserve resources offshore through vigorous regulatory oversight and enforcement,” the agency’s employees have been prevented from meeting that mission. As revealed in a recent story by David Hammer / Eyewitness Investigates, BSEE has failed to hire enough staff to do the work needed to effectively oversee the industry despite having the money to do so. Without timely investigation and enforcement, safety and pollution issues are not addressed, and the oil and gas industry is able to cut corners on safety and environmental compliance. This lack of oversight allows the possibility of another disaster.
Furthermore, Congress has been no better at keeping promises to ensure that industry is held to the highest possible safety standards. In fact, members of Congress are complaining about newly proposed safety regulations on blow-out preventing devices. Even as the oil and gas industry moves into deeper and deeper waters that raise the risks of environmental catastrophe, legislators are trying to shield these companies from making much needed investments in safety and accident prevention technology.
After the BP disaster, Congress assured residents of the Gulf that we would never see another disaster of that magnitude. Part of that promise was the creation of a fully staffed, independent agency focused on ensuring that the industry was held to high safety and environmental protection standards. Instead, they have returned to business as usual – industry development, not safety and environmental protection, is the priority. If decision-makers aren’t willing to keep their promises to the Gulf, why should residents of other coasts facing development trust their promises? Until the federal government can get it right in the Gulf, we should not put other coasts at risk.
Cyn Sarthou is GRN's Executive Director.