Gulf Restoration Network Response Statement to Oil Spill Commission Final Report and Recommendations
We commend the diverse group of experts on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling for their diligent and deliberative investigation into the BP drilling disaster, and we thank them for their commitment to learning the lessons of this environmental and human tragedy while advancing our nation’s efforts for safe energy development.
We are pleased to see the Commission recommend a Gulf of Mexico Regional Citizens Advisory Council that will make sure the communities who are paying the price for the failures that led to this disaster have a chance to weigh in as the oil industry gears up again in what has long been our nation’s energy sacrifice zone.
In a region that has been subject to uneven and inconsistent governmental responses to disasters for the past 5 plus years, and seen first-hand how useless oil spill response plans currently are, it’s critical that those most affected by the oil industry’s mistakes are provided the resources and the clear role to allow an independent set of eyes and ears on the energy industry as the oil and gas development moves forward in the Gulf, and ensure that trust is developed through better advance planning. We are heartened to see the Commission call for the development of a Gulf Coast Citizens Advisory Council which would allow the commercial and subsistence fishing communities, the mom-and-pop tourism industry on the coast, and the conservation community to have a seat at the table to check the math and verify the claims of the oil industry which has failed us so completely the past 8 months.
We are glad to see the Commission recommend that 80% of the eventual fines and penalties paid by BP and the other responsible parties be directed to the Gulf to jump-start the long-needed restoration of historic environmental damages that were exacerbated by BP’s crude. It’s also clear that those fines should be significant, as the report shows that BP’s decisions were indeed grossly negligent, and that the Department of Justice should be able to prove the upper range of possible fines in light of this information.
We concur that while BP and their contractors made bad decisions that ultimately led to this disaster, the entire off-shore oil drilling industry was woefully under-regulated, and this failed system can claim some of the blame for the crisis we’re now dealing with.
BP was far from a unique bad apple, and while they were indeed among the worst operators in the Gulf for accidents, spills, fines and penalties before April 20th, 2010, they were not alone. The Commission report also makes it clear that if any of the other operators in the Gulf had a blowout, the response would have unfortunately been equally inadequate, as the industry’s plans were simply cut and pasted from plans created for other regions.
To that end, we are glad to see the regulatory changes recommended by the Commission, splitting leasing and revenue off completely from the safety and environmental compliance duties of the federal government, and greatly enhancing those efforts.
Of course, any report is only valuable if its recommendations are acted upon. This investigation and recommended path forward is far too important to the nation to simply get dusty on some shelf somewhere. We call on the White House to implement the balance of these recommendations as soon as possible, to give the oil industry the regulatory certainty they need to move forward, and help make oil drilling as safe and as responsible as possible in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, we will need Congress to act to see many of these recommendations move forward, so it is critical that our new Congress adopt legislation supporting this report, and do it as soon as their schedule allows.
Any part of this statement can be quoted with attribution to Aaron Viles, Deputy Director, Gulf Restoration Network.