April 14, 2016
Six Years Is Too Long to Wait for Safeguards to Prevent Another BP Oil Disaster
Statement of Amit Narang, Regulatory Policy Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division
Note: Today the U.S. Department of Interior is expected to release the final version of a new rule on offshore oil and gas drilling designed to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The BP disaster killed 11 people, cost more than $50 billion in damages, disrupted the lives of millions of Gulf Coast residents, destroyed many local small businesses and devastated local ecosystems.
The fact that it has taken six years to get this rule out is a stunning indictment of our regulatory process: It moves far too slowly. Even in the wake of historic deregulatory disasters like the BP oil spill, our regulatory system takes years to address glaring safety gaps that devastate working families, consumers and our environment.
While corporate negligence deserves most of the blame, the lack of government safety regulation and oversight played a role in the BP disaster. Yet in the six years since the disaster, the government has enacted just two new drilling regulations: one in 2010 on well casings and one in 2012 on the cementing of wells. Today’s rule is the third. Meanwhile, disasters are still occurring. The Black Elk Energy rig ignited in 2012, killing four. A natural gas well blowout in 2013 leaked gas into the Gulf of Mexico for two days.
Federal regulators should move more quickly, but conservative lawmakers in Congress are proposing to add dozens of new hurdles to the regulatory process that would bog down rulemaking even further. Instead, we need to streamline the process for developing, implementing and enforcing new safeguards to protect Americans from future oil disasters.