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The presidential oil spill panel released its full report this week, and it included a slew of recommendations for reforming how the government oversees the oil industry's dangerous offshore operations. News of the report's findings largely got lost amongst the political turmoil caused by the weekend's tragic events. But here, to recap, are the 5 most important findings of the presidential oil spill panel:1. More funding for oversight of offshore oil operations
We need to devote more cash to policing the oil companies. The previous oversight regime of the Minerals & Management Service, as well as being corrupt and hopelessly ineffective, was also criminally underfunded -- most of its income came directly from the oil companies the regulators were supposed to be, well, regulating. The agency has been reorganized so the fox is no longer watching the hen house, so to speak, but it will require much more funding to be effective.
2. 80% of penalty payments should go to Gulf restoration
The ol' 'you broke it you bought it' axiom certainly applies to the Gulf -- most of the fines that BP and other negligent companies are docked should be directed squarely at Gulf restoration efforts. Makes sense.
3. $75 million liability cap should be eliminated
Hear, hear -- in order to prevent legal maneuvering from the responsible parties, the $75 million dollar "liability cap" that was put in place with the Oil Spill Act of 1990 after the Exxon Valdez spill should be stricken down. As we've seen with the BP spill, oil disasters can cause much, much more damage than $75 million.
4. Negligent companies are to blame for spill
This finding surfaced last week, but it's an important one: The oil spill panel found that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean all acted negligently in drilling the faulty Macondo well. As a result, they share the blame for the disaster.
5. Another accident is likely to happen again
The panel found that so as long as the regulatory culture surrounding offshore drilling remains in place, as long as companies continue to go largely unchecked in their operations, it is likely that we will see another disaster akin to the BP Gulf spill.
You'll notice that in order to prevent #5, #1 must be instated. Unfortunately, a tide of anti-regulatory politicians have just swept into office, and despite the massive tragedy we all witnessed less than 6 months ago, it seems unlikely that they'll put into place adequate controls on the oil industry. I fear that these very important -- and thoroughly researched -- recommendations will end up amounting to very little.