By Jim Efstathiou Jr.
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- In the two years since a BP Plc
well blowout set off the worst U.S. offshore oil spill, Congress
has failed to make drillers more accountable, according to
members of the panel that studied the disaster.
Lawmakers earned a “D” from members of the National
Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill for not
enacting safe-drilling legislation, according to a report
yesterday. President Barack Obama created the panel after the
April 20, 2010, blast that killed 11 workers, sank the rig and
spewed 4.9 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
Congressional Republicans fault the Obama administration
for slowing the issue of drilling permits and delaying
exploration off Alaska’s coast, a U.S. offshore prospect that
may have the second-biggest reservoir after the Gulf of Mexico.
Environmental groups say it’s premature to drill in the Arctic
until the administration, Congress and industry enact measures
to deal with the region’s demanding conditions.
“Although the administration and industry have made
significant progress, Congress has not,” Democrat Bob Graham,
former commission co-chairman, said in a statement. “Across the
board, we are disappointed with Congress’s lack of action. Two
years have passed since the explosion” and “Congress has yet
to enact one piece of legislation to make drilling safer.”
The commissioners offered recommendations on safety and
environmental protection, spill response, restoration, ensuring
adequate resources and drilling in the Arctic. The members gave
the administration a “B” grade and industry a “C-plus.”
William Reilly, a former Republican administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency and the panel’s co-chairman,
said two companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico have
equipment to cap a gushing well. In 2010, none had the
“We are encouraged by the progress being made,
particularly by the Department of Interior and industry, in
adopting our recommendations,” Reilly said in a statement.
“Significant progress has also been made in industry’s ability
to respond to spills that do occur.”
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, speaking on a conference
call with reporters from Brasilia at the end of tour in Brazil,
said it “inexcusable” that after two years Congress hasn’t
acted. The commission issued its final report in January 2011.
“We understand some of the commission’s frustration with
Congress, and share its desire to ensure safe and responsible
energy production,” Senators Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska
Republican, and Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, said in an
Disagreement in the Senate on sharing revenue from
royalties paid by drillers stalled action on the safety bill,
the lawmakers said. Landrieu and Murkowski said their states
needed a share of the revenue to develop and maintain emergency-
In Congress last year, the House passed legislation with
changes endorsed by the commission, a measure that stalled in
the Senate. This year, neither house has acted on measures to
advance the panel’s recommendations, according to the report.
The Republican-controlled House passed three bills that
would weaken the review of offshore leases and “actually run
contrary to what the commission concluded was essential for
safe, prudent, responsible development of offshore oil
resources,” according to yesterday’s report.
A month after the spill, Obama replaced the Minerals
Management Service, faulted for lax regulation of offshore
drilling, with three offices to oversee leases, drilling safety
and fee collection. Congress has yet to pass a measure making
the administrative changes in the department’s structure.
Congress also has failed to create an industry fee to fund
regulatory operations or to raise the liability cap for offshore
drillers from $75 million, a limit set more than 20 years ago,
according to the report.
“To ensure all agencies with responsibilities have
adequate resources, the commission recommended that the offshore
drilling industry bear the costs associated with leasing and
permitting review,” the report said. “Congress did approve an
increase in inspection fees, but has no legislation pending to
establish a more robust, dedicated funding source.”
The former members, who said they weren’t “satisfied with
just issuing a report,” received support from the Walton
Family Foundation in Bentonville, Arkansas, to monitor action on
the panel’s recommendations. The group of seven former
commissioners hired a person to help with tasks, according to
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--Editors: Steve Geimann, Jon Morgan
To contact the reporter on this story:
Jim Efstathiou Jr. in New York at +1-212-617-1647 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at +1-202-654-7370 or