Deepwater Horizon report – in short

Published:  13 January, 2011

Summary of the report by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and offshore drilling

Summary of the recommendation adapted directly from the report follows:

1.The National Response Team should develop and maintain expertise within the Federal government to oversee source-control efforts.

2. The National Response Team should develop and maintain expertise within the federal government to obtain accurate estimates of flow rate or spill volume early in a source-control effort.

3. EPA and the Coast Guard should establish distinct plans and procedures for responding to a “Spill of National Significance.

4. EPA and the Coast Guard should bolster state and local involvement in oil spill contingency planning and training and create a mechanism for local involvement in spill planning and response similar to the Regional Citizens’ Advisory Councils mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

5. Congress should provide mandatory funding for oil spill response research and development and provide incentives for private-sector research and development.

6. EPA should update and periodically review its dispersant testing protocols for product listing or pre-approval, and modify the pre-approval process to include temporal duration, spatial reach, and volume of the spill.

7. The Coast Guard should issue guidance to establish that offshore barrier berms and similar dredged barriers generally will not be authorized as an oil spill response measure in the National Contingency Plan or any Area Contingency Plan.

8. The National Response Team should develop and maintain expertise within the Federal government to oversee source-control efforts.

9. The Department of the Interior should require offshore operators to provide detailed plans for source control as part of their oil spill response plans and applications for permits to drill.

10.The Department of the Interior should require offshore operators seeking its approval of proposed well design to demonstrate that: 

  •  Well components, including blowout preventer stacks, are equipped with sensors or other tools to obtain accurate diagnostic information—for example, regarding pressures and the position of blowout preventer rams.
  • Wells are designed to mitigate risks to well integrity during post-blowout containment efforts.

11. The Coast Guard, through the Federal On-Scene Coordinator, should provide scientists with timely access to the response zone so that they can conduct independent scientific research during an oil spill response and long-term monitoring in the future. 

12. The Trustees for Natural Resources should ensure that compensatory restoration under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process is transparent and appropriate.

13. EPA should develop distinct plans and procedures to address human health impacts during a Spill of National Significance.

14. Congress, federal agencies, and responsible parties should take steps to restore consumer confidence in the aftermath of a Spill of National Significance.

15. Congress should dedicate 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties to long-term restoration of the Gulf of Mexico.

16. Congress and federal and state agencies should build the organizational, financial, scientific, and public outreach capacities needed to put the restoration effort on a strong footing.

17. The appropriate federal agencies, including EPA, Interior, and NOAA, and the Trustees for Natural Resources should better balance the myriad economic and environmental interests concentrated in the Gulf region going forward. This would include improved monitoring and increased use of sophisticated tools like coastal and marine spatial planning. Many of these tools and capacities will also be important to manage areas of the OCS outside the Gulf.

18. Congress should significantly increase the liability cap and financial responsibility requirements for offshore facilities.

19. Congress should increase the limit on per-incident payouts from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

20. The Department of the Interior should enhance auditing and evaluation of the risk of offshore drilling activities by individual participants (operator, driller, other service companies). The Department of the Interior, insurance underwriters, or other independent entities should evaluate and monitor the risk of offshore drilling activities to promote enhanced risk management in offshore operations and to discourage unqualified companies from remaining in the market.

21. The Department of Justice’s Office of Dispute Resolution should conduct an evaluation of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility once all claims have been paid out; in order to inform claims processes in future Spills of National Significance. The evaluation should include a review of the process, the guidelines used for compensation, and the success rate for avoiding law suits.

  •  Increase and maintain congressional awareness of the risks of offshore drilling in two ways.  First, create additional congressional oversight of offshore safety and environmental risks.  Second, require the appropriate congressional committees to hold an annual oversight hearing on the state of technology, application of process safety, and environmental protection to ensure these issues receive continuing congressional attention.
  • Congress should enact legislation creating a mechanism for offshore oil and gas operators to provide ongoing and regular funding of the agencies regulating offshore oil and gas development

Read the full Deep Water report

  • Operation Florian

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