January 11, 2011

Whitehouse Commends Gulf Spill Commission

Report highlights safety and ethics issues that caused preventable tragedy

Washington, D.C. – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse commended the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling today for releasing a frank assessment of the causes of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and recommending a broad spectrum of reforms to prevent future environmental and human disasters.

“Sadly, today’s report by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling confirms what we suspected – that this was an entirely preventable tragedy. The report found that industry management was concerned more with profits than safety, while government regulators all too often appeased industry players rather than provide meaningful oversight. We must take the National Commission’s finding seriously, and make sure our offshore oil laws require safe drilling, and that our regulators have the resources and the ethical standards to resist “agency capture” by industry, to prevent future disasters of this magnitude.”

The Deepwater Horizon explosion took the lives of 11 rig workers, and caused the largest environmental disaster in American history. The spill is estimated to be at least 26 times greater than the 1990 Exxon Valdez spill in the Prince William Sound.

Last May, within two weeks of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Senator Whitehouse introduced the BP Deepwater Horizon Inquiry Commission Act of 2010, cosponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), to establish an independent, non-partisan commission to investigate the oil spill and provide recommendations for improving the safety and environmental record of offshore oil drilling. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Later that month, President Obama thanked Senator Whitehouse and Rep. Capps for their leadership on this issue when he announced his intention to create the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling by executive order.

Senator Whitehouse closely followed the creation and process of the National Commission, and had provided recommendations on its functions in a May 20, 2009 letter co-authored by Rep. Capps, and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA).

The report released today reveals that a complacent industry, lack of regulatory enforcement, and political indifference, can all be faulted in the BP Gulf oil disaster. The Commission makes clear that unless reforms to safety and oversight are implemented, such a tragedy could happen again. The Commission recommends that the oil industry establish common best practices and hold one another accountable through an industry-run safety institute. It also calls on Congress to provide ample funding for industry oversight and to ensure polluters, not the taxpayers or victims, are responsible for the damages caused by an oil spill. The report also urges the Administration to establish a politically independent office to monitor safety and environmental oversight, while enhancing the role of NOAA, the national ocean science agency.


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