A presidential panel investigating BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is calling for an overhaul of industry practices and the appointment of a new watchdog group in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the disaster.
The White House commission concluded its extensive six-month probe with a final report Tuesday, saying that the government needs to expand its regulatory system and instate an independent drilling safety oversight agency.
“None of the major aspects of offshore drilling safety — not the regulatory oversight, not the industry safety standards, not the spill response practices — kept pace with the push into deepwater,” said commission co-chair Bill Reilly, according to AFP.
“In effect, our nation was entirely unprepared for an inevitable disaster,” he said.
An April 20th explosion on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig left 4.9 million barrels of crude spewing uncontrollably into the Gulf of Mexico. 11 rig workers died in the explosion, and the spill devastated marine wildlife, local tourism, and the commercial fishing and shrimping industries before the well was capped three months later.
Many of the seven-member panel’s recommendations will need to go through the Senate, where they are sure to face opposition from Republicans.
Both Republicans and oil companies have condemned the prospect of additional regulations, saying that they impede offshore exploration and end up costing Americans at the pump.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that following the spill the Interior Department implemented many of the reforms suggested by the panel, but that it “will use the commission’s report and the findings of other investigations to inform future actions to strengthen oversight.”
The panel is also pushing for a self-regulating agency to enforce protocol and oversee offshore drilling safety.
Although it did not call for a moratorium on drilling in the Arctic, the commission warned that the Interior should ensure that companies take precautionary measures in case a spill occurs there.
The panel does not have the power to enforce its recommendations, but the 400-page report could sway court proceedings and energy policy.
While the offshore drilling moratorium imposed by the government after the spill was lifted in October, no permits for exploratory drilling have been issued.