The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling was appointed by the President to examine why the oil rig disaster in the Gulf happened and what could be done about it in the future. It abdicated that charter by blaming all parties involved for causing the disaster and for failing to adequately address it after it occurred.
The Commission released one of its final reports of its analysis. Among the findings were that:
“The well blew out because a number of separate risk factors, oversights, and outright mistakes combined to overwhelm the safeguards meant to prevent just such an event from happening. But most of the mistakes and oversights at Macondo can be traced back to a single overarching failure—a failure of management. Better management by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean would almost certainly have prevented the blowout by improving the ability of individuals involved to identify the risks they faced, and to properly evaluate, communicate, and address them.”
Put more simply, the companies that drilled the well and operated the drill and rig were responsible for the rig’s eventual malfunction and demise.
“What we. . .know is considerable and significant: (1) each of the mistakes made on the rig and onshore by industry and government increased the risk of a well blowout; (2) the cumulative risk that resulted from these decisions and actions was both unreasonably large and avoidable; and (3) the risk of a catastrophic blowout was ultimately realized on April 20 and several of the mistakes were contributing causes of the blowout.”
The government was partly responsible for the disaster the commission found. Companies such as BP seem to have put their profit interests ahead of the risks entailed to make those profits. The Commission also said a similar tragedy could happen again.
For those who have not read the report or do not plan to, its conclusions are almost entirely like those given by any government investigation of a man-made disaster whether its be the collapse of a bridge or an oil tanker which has run aground. Once mechanical and infrastructure causes which could have been immediate contributors to a catastrophe have been ruled out, the blame is placed on the shoulders of human judgment. It is, of course, impossible to place the burden anywhere else
The commission’s findings will probably lend power to suits against the companies involved in the disaster. The report will also help the federal government to decide how to punish BP (NYSE: BP), Transocean (NYSE: RIG), and Halliburton (NYSE: HAL). There will be a number of recommendations about how regulators can provide better oversight and how companies can do a better jobs creating new safety systems and more careful monitoring of dangerous projects.
The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling might has well have written its evaluation before it began its work.
Douglas A. McIntyre