Press Release | January 11, 2011

Lesson from oil spill commission: reform and better oversight needed

The Southern Environmental Law Center today called for systemic reform and better oversight after the oil spill commission’s investigation found the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout resulted from pervasive problems within the oil industry and “absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

“It should be a straightforward equation: an oil industry involved in risky, potentially disastrous operations must undergo thorough environmental review and accept better oversight,” said Derb Carter, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The BP well blew out the prior assumptions about the risks, impacts and ability to control and respond to a deep water oil spill. Without the ability to prevent and stop another disaster, we shouldn’t be drilling in deep water.”

“After evading adequate oversight for years, the oil industry must re-adjust to being a regulated industry,” added Catherine Wannamaker, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Sidestepping environmental review of risky deep water drilling can no longer be an option with an oil industry that lacks the ability to prevent and stop disaster. The damage and risk borne by coastal life and health shouldn’t be dismissed by rushing back to business-as-usual.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center is currently in court to ensure a thorough environmental review of risks and possible response plans takes place before an oil company begins drilling in deep waters.

Both before and after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many drilling operations were exempted from environmental review illegally. Environmental review, mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act, forms the basis for the government’s decision making, and informs whether to require further safeguards that will minimize risks to life and other uses of the area, such as seafood harvesting and tourism.

Today’s commission report follows two Inspector General reports, including an investigation under the Bush Administration, which detailed a culture of corruption among the oil industry and government regulators with little regard for laws and regulations meant to protect life and other uses of marine and coastal resources.

Despite oil industry outcry that jobs would suffer under a temporary pause of risky deep water activities which ended on October 12, Moody’s Investment Services reported in November that the pause of less than 1 percent of drilling activities in the Gulf had not affected employment levels. Profit is up for many in the oil industry according to the recent round of earnings reports, with some oil companies reporting over 50 percent gains in profit or even doubling their income.

Press Contacts

Catherine Wannamaker

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 404-521-9900

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: ksullivan@selcnc.org