Friday, December 03, 2010

BP Commission: Oil & Gas Industry Must Embrace New Safety Culture

Dec 2: The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling established by Executive Order 13543 on May 21, 2010, held its 6th and final public meeting on December 2-3, 2010. The Commission deliberated on the preliminary findings related to the root causes of the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster and options to guard against and mitigate the impacts of future spills.
    The agenda of discussion items and staff presentations included: Safety Culture in the Offshore Drilling Industry; Regulatory Oversight; Environmental Review; Drilling in the Arctic; Oil Spill Response; Liability Caps and Financial Responsibility Draft Staff;
Commission Presentation for Containment; Impacts and Assessment Presentation; and Long-Term Restoration Presentation.
    In an opening statement from Co-Chair William Reilly, he said, "I am struck myself by the evolution in my own thinking in the course of the time that I have spent serving on this commission. I came into it persuaded as I think most people in the oil and gas industry may still be persuaded that this was a case of a company with at least a five-year history of severe safety challenges and misbehavior, and that we were dealing with essentially a rogue company. I think it has been conclusively and indisputably established that we have a bigger problem than that."
    Reilly indicated that three major companies were heavily involved in the decisions that are most questionable that were made on the Macondo rig, and "this perception in some quarters of the oil and gas industry that Macondo was the consequence of one company's bad decisions simply doesn't stand. Our investigative team concluded that three major companies were fully implicated in the catastrophe and our staff further reported that other companies had no effective containment preparations and laughable response plans that promised to look out for any polar bears or walruses that happened on to the scene. The poor state of containment and response plans and capability in the Gulf of Mexico is indisputable evidence of a widespread lack of serious preparation, of planning, of management. That culture must change. It must change for so many reasons for the good of all of us.  It must change among other reasons for the good of the oil and gas industry. . . So let me say as emphatically as I can the oil and gas industry needs to embrace a new safety culture. . ."
    Co-Chair Bob Graham in an opening statement said, "I would like to note that I am very impressed with what we have been able to accomplish without subpoena power. I remain mystified as to why a few Senators decided to deny this commission this power when subpoena power has been granted as almost an absolute for congressional commissions which have analogous responsibilities to ours. The lack of subpoena power has made our commissions work more difficult. Our success is a testament both to the determination and skill of our team and to the plain fact that the problems of and deficiencies with the current safety regime are so egregious. Over the next two years we will discuss our findings and how we propose to translate them into reforms that are worthy of our great nation."
    Access the opening remarks from Co-Chairs Reilly and Graham (click here). Access links to the current and past meetings and link to the 2-day agenda and extensive staff presentation and proposed recommendations (click here). Access the BP Commission website for more information (click here).