TWO YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, BP’S DEEPWATER HORIZON DRILLING RIG EXPLODED, KILLING 11 AND DUMPING 5 MILLION BARRELS OF CRUDE INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO. OFFICIALS VOWED IT WOULDN’T HAPPEN AGAIN, BUT HAVE THINGS CHANGED? – ALYSON SHEPPARD
Tighten government oversight
In May 2010, the US Minerals Management Service (MMS) was charged with egregious ethics violations, such as accepting gifts from the oil industry. The country’s secretary of the interior pledged to root out “bad apples”.
To reduce conflicts of interest, the MMS was split into three separate organisations to oversee planning, inspecting and revenue collecting. The Department of the Interior (DOI) set up an internal investigation and review unit to police its agencies.
Assess the damage
During the crisis, White House adviser David Axelrod said, “Obviously we’re dealing with the greatest environmental catastrophe of all time.” Some pundits predicted the Gulf would become a wasteland.
Although the offshore spill was the largest in US history, it was not as catastrophic as predicted. Favourable currents and topography prevented the oil from spreading and allowed bacteria to break it down quickly. A government study projects a reduction in bluefin populations of less than 4 per cent.
Reform offshore rules
The National Oil Spill Commission’s report released in January 2011 called for “fundamental reform” to DOI regulations
governing deepwater oil and gas exploration, production and spill response.
Marilyn Heiman of the Pew Environment Group says the DOI has improved safety and containment requirements for drillers but has not altered its spill-response and -preparedness rules. Most new government requirements expire in three years.
Web: For more information on the BP oil spill, visit AUV with gulper samplers sent to investigate Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Plea for clean-up tech to help control the BP oilspill, An oilspill’s worst enemy and How the blowout happened.