Because regulatory oversight alone will not be sufficient to ensure adequate safety, the oiland gas industry will need to take its own, unilateral steps to increase safety throughoutthe industry, including self-policing mechanisms that support governmental enforcement.
The technology, laws and regulations, and practices for containing, responding to, andcleaning up spills lag behind the real world risks associated with deepwater drilling intolarge, high-pressure reservoirs of oil and gas located far offshore and thousands of feet
below the ocean‘s surface.
Government must close the existing gap and industry mustsupport rather than resist that effort.
Scientific understanding of environmental conditions in sensitive environments in deep
Gulf waters, along the region‘s coastal habitats, and in other areas
proposed for drilling,such as the Arctic, is inadequate. The same is true of the human and natural impacts of oil spills.
The government must revise and strengthen NEPA policies to improve environmentalanalyses, transparency and consistency and create a new oil spill analysis and planningprocess.
In addition, a fundamental reorganization of the former Minerals Management Service isneeded. Congress should create an independent agency within the Department of Interiorwith enforcement authority to oversee offshore drilling safety.
See generally id.
Neither these recommendations, nor any of the Commission‘s other findings,
have been adopted by Shell, BOEMRE or the Department of the Interior. As a result, necessaryand fundamental reforms have not been applied to the Shell project.In response to the spill, BOEMRE commissioned Det Norske Veritas to write a technicalreport explaining why the blowout preventer
the device intended to be the last, fail-safe defense against a well blowout
on the Deepwater Horizon drilling vessel failed to operateproperly. On March 20, 2011, Det Norske Veritas
released its final report (―BOP Report‖).
Thereport concluded that the BOP had failed because the pressure of the escaping oil and gasbuckled the drill pipe and pushed it off-center so that the jaws of the BOP
‘s shear rams, which
are supposed to cut and seal the drill pipe, jammed and could not close.
BOP Report at 4-5,
http://www.deepwaterinvestigation.com/go/doc/3043/1047291/. In our view, this isa fundamental design defect in the design of the Cameron-style blowout preventers, which arewidely used in deepwater exploration. We now know that there is a critical failure mode in thesedevices which has not been designed against and that blowout preventers are not fail-safe. Thisproblem is not mentioned, much less analyzed, in the Shell EP, or in the environmentalassessment BOEMRE created for a different Shell EP, which was approved after the release of the report.
Endangered and Threatened Species in the Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is home to several endangered and threatened species, including atleast five species of whale (blue, fin, sei, humpback, and sperm), five types of sea turtles (green,
hawksbill, leatherback, Kemp‘s ridley, and loggerhead), four kinds of beach mice
(Alabama,Choctawhatchee, St. Andrew, and Perdido Key); four species of marine birds (piping plover,