Sheila McNulty Oil spill report: Industry complains

The US oil and gas industry feels slighted by the fact that the presidential oil commission’s report raises questions about the safety of deepwater drilling generally. Speaking for the industry is the American Petroleum Institute, which represents more than 400 oil and gas companies:

The industry has already taken significant action to futher improve safety in offshore operations, consistent with the recommendations of the presidential commission on last summer’s oil spill.

Erik Milito, API’s upstream director, said API was deeply concerned that the commission’s report casts doubt on an entire industry based on its study of a single incident:

This does a great disservice to the thousands of men and women who work in the industry and have the highest personal and professional commitment to safety… An accurate assessment must acknowledge all the facts, such as the numerous concrete actions that industry has taken both before and since the accident to identify and implement additional safeguards.

While ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips have declined immediate comment, Chevron said it was confident in the safety of its drilling practices and was working diligently with the industry to ensure that robust drilling practices are used by all. From its release:

The recommendations made by the National Commission will be a part of that effort… As has been the custom, the industry will continue to make improvements.

Despite those commitments, Congressman Edward Markey said he would introduce legislation reflecting the commission’s recommendations combined with additional legislation co-authored by him that passed the House in August. He said final enactment was blocked by Senate republications. From his statement:

Because systemic safety and oversight issues regarding the offshore oil industry persist, if we do not enact reforms, there will likely be repeats of this disaster. The spill commission’s independent assessment of America’s worst oil spill must lead to reforms.

Indeed, Amy Myers Jaffe, energy expert at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy, said the US really does not have adequate policies and regulations for offshore drilling in the US:

No policy or regulation can ensure 100 per cent that a disaster like Macondo will not happen again, but other countries have smarter regulations that have more successfully reduced risks than the United States.

Seems like some further tightening of the system is in order.