Gulf Oil Disaster “Might Well Recur” Absent Reform, Says Commission

Someone’s leaked a chapter of the final report of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill & Offshore Drilling. This morning, media coverage is focused mostly on finger pointing:

  • The commission’s Democratic & Republican co-chairs are debating about whether drillers or regulators are most to blame
  • Transocean is trying to pin responsibility on BP
  • Halliburton is blaming everyone but itself

But the blame game misses the report’s big picture: Everyone’s to blame & absent widespread reform, no one can guarantee another oil disaster won’t happen. If your top concern is protecting communities, wildlife & ecosystems from the catastrophic effects of another oil disaster, that’s the really shocking part of this report:

The president’s Oil Spill Commission has concluded that systemic failures, not a rogue BP management style, caused the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout in April.

“The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again,” says the commission’s final report, released late Wednesday. “Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

To prevent another oil disaster, this report says we need renewed concern for safety at all levels – not just from oil companies, but from federal drilling regulators and from our representatives in Congress. While the House passed legislation responding to the disaster last year, the Senate failed to act, meaning oil companies are still protected by a laughably-low cap on liability of just $75 million.

We have allowed the privatization of profits by major corporations in offshore oil developments, while we’ve allowed the socialization of the liability,” National Wildlife Federation President & CEO Larry Schweiger said late last night. “We’ve transferred to the society the risk of these developments by capping the liabilities at $75 million. That’s incredibly small for such a large disaster as this. It’s probably going to reach somewhere around $16 billion in total liability.”

The commission’s full report is due out on Tuesday. We’ll have much more reaction to the report’s contents from NWF experts in the days ahead.

Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf oil disaster response at

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Published: January 6, 2011