It is inexcusable for the Obama administration to grant BP millions of dollars in leases to conduct exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico without any substantial new safeguards in place. Has the administration already forgotten the devastation caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster?
The news that BP will be invited back into the Gulf comes on the very day that the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council said in a report that more needs to be done to prevent another Gulf drilling catastrophe.
And it is unforgivable that Michael Bromwich, the former head of the main offshore energy regulator, in October discounted the worst environmental disaster our country has ever seen as just “one incident,” saying that it did not justify “the administrative death penalty.”
Just one incident? Dismissing the BP disaster as “just one incident” is like calling Hurricane Katrina a little rainstorm.
The BP disaster killed 11 workers, sent more than 4 million barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, devastated tourism and the fishing industry in Gulf states and made experts desperate as they unsuccessfully tried to plug the oil for 87 days. It wasn’t just an accident. It was the result of reckless actions by BP and its contractors. That’s to say nothing of BP’s known history of negligence when it comes to worker safety – even before the Gulf disaster, BP paid the two largest fines in the history of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). BP’s record also includes hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental penalties and settlements, a guilty plea to an environmental felony and a criminal misdemeanor.
The Obama administration’s authorization for this corporate criminal to continue to wreak havoc on the Gulf of Mexico is especially appalling because in the year and a half since the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, Congress has failed to enact any meaningful legislation to protect workers or the environment in offshore drilling ventures.
Beyond that, the changes made by the Interior Department since the Gulf oil spill – namely splitting the Minerals Management Service and clarifying existing regulations – are irrelevant if current regulations don’t go far enough to mitigate the incredible risk of deepwater drilling. Current policy does not adequately hold oil corporations responsible and accountable for accidents and environmental destruction.
And if those deficiencies weren’t enough, BP has done nothing to prove that the corporation has changed its practices to ensure events like the Deepwater Horizon calamity will never happen again.
Congress must promptly pass oil spill legislation.
The Obama administration must stop awarding deepwater offshore drilling permits and return to Obama’s commitment to break U.S. addiction to oil by advocating for investment to develop clean energy manufacturing.