An Urgent Call To Action: Spill Commission Releases Final Report

Report warns oil disaster “may well recur” absent extensive reform of drilling practices and regulation

01-11-2011 // Miles Grant
Oil rig burning

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has released its final report, calling for a national commitment to restoring America’s Gulf Coast. The report also warns an oil disaster “may well recur” absent extensive reform of drilling practices and regulation.

The panel’s key recommendations for lawmakers: 

  • Strengthen drilling safety measures, including full funding of Department of Interior oversight programs
  • Dedicate 80 percent of civil & criminal Clean Water Act penalties to Gulf Coast ecological restoration
  • Lift the $75 million liability cap on the maximum amount of cash oil companies would be required to pay for economic losses

“After past catastrophes that have devastated America’s natural resources, Congress has moved swiftly to prevent similar disasters,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “This Congress owes it to the people of the Gulf to act decisively to implement the commission’s recommendations.”

What went wrong

Commission members paint a bleak picture of drilling safety & oversight. The report highlights managerial negligence at many levels surrounding the disaster, but also made clear that "aberrational decisions" were not to blame. Instead, the report describes a culture that values profit over safety. Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), one of the commission's two co-chairs, calls regulators “consistently outmatched."

International Bird Rescue

The Deepwater Horizon blowout off the Gulf Coast on April 20, 2010 killed 11 workers. In the months that followed, 200 million gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and more than 8,000 birds, endangered sea turtles & marine mammals were found dead in the disaster zone.

Economic & ecological catastrophe

A study by Oxford Economics estimated that the oil disaster could affect tourism for three years at a cost of $22.7 billion in lost revenues. According to “A Study of the Economic Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” completed by Greater New Orleans, Inc., in Louisiana alone, between 2011 and 2013, gross losses to the economy from lost fishing revenues may be between $285 million and $428 million, resulting in the loss of between 2,700 and 4,000 full time equivalent jobs and lost employee earnings of between $68 million and $103 million.

The commission’s final report makes clear that we can’t restore the Gulf’s economy without restoring its ecosystems,” said Schweiger. “From the fisheries that support thousands of jobs in commercial and sport fishing to the marshes and barrier islands that soften the blow of hurricanes, the Gulf Coast can’t be made whole without a major national commitment.”

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