Among the causes of the spread of crude from the leak caused by an explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig were that the federal government was in no position to assess the size of the problem or properly give advice on how to solve it.
These are among the conclusions of a report by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill created by the Administration. The report does praise the efforts by early responders to the disaster, but adds “These remarkable efforts were necessary, however, because of a lack of advance preparation by industry and government.”
The attack on the efforts to fix the problem contains two other critical observations–”the government was unprepared to oversee a deepwater source control effort” and “underestimates of the flow rate appear to have impeded planning for source-control efforts” to completely cap the leak.
The criticisms may not be entirely fair. It is impossible for the federal government to anticipate every potential disaster that might occur. That would mean federal authorities would have to deploy tens of thousands of people to watch for and analyze everything from large fires in national parks to massive mine collapses that could kill hundreds of miners. The idea that government agencies can anticipate and solve such a huge number of potential troubles is naive.
The second issue raised by the commission is that BP and government officials on site early could have properly measured the flow of oil from the leak. It needs to be remembered that estimates for the spill varied wildly for weeks after the catastrophe. There were even interactive maps of the effects of the spill that showed oil moving up the eastern seaboard of the US and well into the Atlantic.
It is easy for a commission to look at a problems in retrospect about how Deepwater Horizon might have been handled differently. It is another matter to consider what the real world considerations were as the trouble progressed.
Douglas A. McIntyre