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Six months after BP disaster, Congress has yet to act

Six months after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico – which set off the worst oil spill in the history of the United States – Congress has yet to pass a legislative response to the BP oil disaster.

Approximately 200 million gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico between April 20 and July 15, when the well was temporarily capped. The resulting spill coated more than 600 miles of coastline and hundreds of square miles of marsh, and killed thousands of birds and sea turtles. But the disaster is not over. Gulf communities continue to suffer, and residents are calling on Congress to take action.

While the Obama administration has released a new plan that would invest billions of dollars of BP fines into the region’s recovery, many of the key components of this plan, including the creation of a Gulf Coast Recovery Council and a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund paid for by significant amounts of BP’s Clean Water Act fines, require action on the part of Congress.

Moreover, legislation is needed to address core causes of the accident and the inadequate response to it – issues that apply to the oil industry as a whole. Legislation under consideration would add new protections for people who blow the whistle on safety violations, new safety requirements for blowout preventers and rules that stop companies with extremely poor safety records from obtaining new drilling leases. Federal action must address the immediate and long-term impacts of the BP disaster and address the impunity in which the oil industry has violated and circumvented safety and environmental regulations.

Public Citizen supports the fishermen, community leaders, environmental leaders and Gulf coast citizens whose lives continue to be affected by the BP oil disaster and who gather today to rally in New Orleans, Biloxi, Miss., and Mobile, Ala., to remind Congress that the crisis is not over and offshore drilling reform is still a top priority for the Gulf coast.

Allison Fisher is the Energy Organizer for Public Citizen

Photo from New Orleans Rally provided by Rachel Guillory