Offshore Drilling Risks Compel Need to End Offshore Drilling, Invest in Clean Energy Transition
Press Release Date: January 11, 2011
Location: Washington, D.C.
Oceana Chief Executive Officer Andrew Sharpless offers the following reaction to the full National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling findings released this morning in Washington, D.C.:
“The Commission has described its charge as consisting of three tasks: first, identify the root causes of the disaster; second, determine what happened, and third, make recommendations about what should be done to avoid such catastrophes in the future.
The Commission did an excellent job of addressing the first two tasks. It correctly concluded that the Deepwater Horizon disaster was not an isolated incident; but was indicative of a systemic failure of the oil industry and the federal regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing it.
However, the Commission failed on the third task. Its recommendations fall far short of what’s needed to avoid a similarly catastrophic blowout.
The Commission’s full findings reveal that offshore drilling simply cannot be done safely. That’s reason enough to make sure the oil industry is prepared to compensate the public for the full extent of damages by entirely removing the liability cap. If drilling could be done safely, there would be no reason for the Commission to recommend a cap on liability. If the risks of offshore drilling are so small, why is the industry so opposed to providing the public an insurance policy? The answer is that insurers – those who really care about risks— don’t believe the risks are small. If the oil industry is so sure the risks of offshore drilling are trivial, it should put its mouth where its money is, and support the elimination of the federal liability cap.
To suggest that the oil industry is ready to make the complete transformation called for in this report is not credible. It didn’t happen after the Exxon Valdez tanker spill, it isn’t happening now, and it won’t ever happen. No matter how many stop signs and speed bumps and speed limits you put up, you can count on the profit-hungry international oil companies to run pell mell through them.
This report shows that the oil companies have made cutting corners an art form.
Believing that the international oil companies will stop playing dice with America’s beaches and America’s fisheries is like believing in ‘gambling carefully.’ Everyone knows that if you sit at the roulette wheel long enough, you’ll lose all your money, and if we let the oil companies keep drilling off our oceans, eventually we’ll lose all our beaches and our fisheries.
The oil companies will always prioritize profits over safety. This report – and all history — shows that.
In our national forests, we have laws preventing fires in the dry season. That’s not because every fire gets out of control, but because all it takes is one, and you lose the whole forest and all the towns and cities nearby. Deepwater Horizon showed us the same is true of ocean oil drilling. All it takes is one well and your beaches and your fisheries can be ruined.
The Commission identifies the need for the U.S. to develop a broader energy policy, one that weans us completely off offshore oil. That need still exists, and the President should establish a commission with that charge.
Unfortunately, we are left with a report that presupposes offshore drilling into the indefinite future. The Obama Administration recently took a good first step by taking drilling in the eastern Gulf and Atlantic off the table. The Administration should go further and end exploration in the Arctic. As the Commission report makes clear, the Arctic should be the last place we start drilling, rather than the first.
On its third task, to recommend ways to prevent such an accident from happening again, the Commission fell far short. The Commission should have included the following in its recommendations:
- President Obama should stop new offshore drilling. This is a dirty and dangerous practice, and we have learned that many things can go wrong and accidents are difficult to prevent.
- If drilling continues, Congress should pass legislation to stop new offshore leasing. Congressman Pallone has introduced such legislation and Congress and the President should make its passage a priority.
- In the meantime, Congress should remove the liability cap, to protect those harmed by future spills. The report makes clear that such a spill could happen again, and if it does, there should be no limit to companies’ liability.
- The President should create a national energy commission to determine how we can replace the oil we get from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico (roughly 8 percent of what we use) to alleviate the need for offshore drilling. This commission should be charged with developing a national plan to deliver clean and sustainable energy sources and energy efficiency measures to replace the fossil fuels we get from the Gulf.
- As long as drilling continues, independent government inspectors should be on site at all times to ensure companies are not making cost-cutting or other risky decisions that increase the risks of a spill.”