BP Oil Spill Commission Staff: "Production Trumped Safety"

WASHINGTON, Dec 2, 2010 -- The staff of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling said today that “production trumped safety” at the ill-fated Macondo well and that public oversight was hamstrung by "political and industry pressure.” In response, Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, made the following statement:

“This is a searing indictment of the companies involved and the public authorities all Americans rely on to protect our oceans, our coasts and our people. BP and its partners were allowed to expose the Gulf to grave and needless risk through a long train of flawed decisions and operational blunders, which were wholly preventable. Now the Gulf and its people are paying the price.”

“The staff put its finger on the problems, ranging from a passive and under-funded regulatory regime unable to monitor increasingly risky drilling to an emphasis on production above all and a shocking lack of investment in oil spill response and research.”

“Now the commission must connect the dots between what went wrong and the safeguards we need to prevent another catastrophic blowout at sea - in the Gulf or anywhere else. We need protections that are commensurate with the stakes, and the stakes could not be higher.  The initial staff recommendations appear to include many important steps in the right direction, though we look forward to further specificity and strengthening of some of the recommendations as the commission’s deliberations proceed.”

“We need an assertive package of reforms that will strengthen regulatory oversight and environmental and worker safety protections. We need to base oversight on sound and robust science and significantly upgrade oil spill preparedness and response capabilities. And we need incentives, through significantly increased or eliminated liability requirements, that encourage companies to protect our ocean and coastal resources - not sacrifice safety for output.”

“Finally, as part of its report to the commission, the staff made clear that the time has come for a national energy strategy that, in the words of the staff, ‘reflects our dedication to energy and economic security, safety and environmental protection.’”          

“That's exactly what we need.”            

“Part of that strategy has to be protecting our oceans and coastal areas - and the millions of Americans who depend upon them. That's why the administration is right to put Atlantic and Pacific waters, as well as the Eastern Gulf, off limits to new drilling for at least the next seven years. And it's why these protections need to be extended to the biologically rich Arctic waters.”

“Ultimately, we must break our addiction to oil and start moving toward cleaner, safer and more sustainable sources of power and fuel. Until then, we have to stop squandering oil in gas guzzling vehicles and build cars that can deliver 60 miles per gallon by 2025.”