Oil Spill Commission Update: Nov. 11, 2010

By MarEx 2010-11-10 00:00:00

Sen. Graham's Opening Statement from Nov. 9, 2010 Hearing
For Immediate Release: Nov. 9, 2010

Today we're going to be focusing on the future, not past. But the future is always influenced by our past experiences and so will we be.

Yesterday we had a very detailed description of the well drilling operations as well as the details of the intercompany decision and how those decisions played out and contributed to the ultimate disaster. There was in the news reports of yesterday’s hearing a statement that I think was stated in too broad a term. The statement was that there was no evidence that there were conscious decisions made to trade-off safety for profit.

I agree with that statement as it relates to those things that occurred on the oil rig itself. Those men whose lives were going to be in the safety risk equation. There is certainly no evidence that they degraded their own mortality.

I think the larger question is the one that Co-Chairman Reilly has just focused on and the reality is that there were a series of almost inexplicable failures in the hours leading up to the disaster.

There were a series of actions which are difficult to explain in this environment. To just select one, the fact that there were three different temporary abandonment plans adopted in the week before the final execution of the plan is illustrative of the fact that the lack of consistent planning for safety. The problem here is that there was a culture that did not promote safety and that culture failed. Leaders did not take serious risks seriously enough and did not identify a risk that proved to be fatal.

Today we will be looking at the same issues as yesterday but from a different perspective, including the perspective of some of those within industry with the best reputations for affecting a safety culture.

I hope that in the course of this we might have some new perspectives on what happened at Macondo. What were the motivations that led to various decisions to be made? I might say one specific issue that I’m going to be interested in is why was the date April 20 such a committed date?

There were multiple reasons why it would have seemed prudent to have delayed the final actions until various safety measures, some of which were within a few hours of completion, could have been available for consideration as to the wisdom of moving forward with the next step. That is just one of the questions which I hope we’ll get some additional intelligence upon today.
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About the Commission

President Barack Obama established the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling through Executive Order 13543 on May 21, 2010. The Commission will be examining the relevant facts and circumstances concerning the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and developing options to guard against, and mitigate the impact of, any oil spills associated with offshore drilling in the future. This may include recommending improvements to federal laws, regulations, and industry practices.

Key areas of inquiry for the Commission include:

The Macondo Well Explosion and Drilling Safety
The Role of Offshore Oil Drilling in Domestic Energy Policy
Regulatory Oversight of Offshore Drilling
Oil Spill Response
Spill Impacts and Assessment
Restoration Approaches and Options

The Commission is co-chaired by Senator Bob Graham and former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly. The other Commissioners are Frances Beinecke, Donald Boesch, Terry Garcia, Cherry Murray, and Frances Ulmer. Over the course of its work, the Commission will be holding public meetings, producing staff working papers, meeting with stakeholders, interviewing key players, and analyzing the evidence related to the spill and its aftermath.

A final report on the Commission’s findings is due to the President on January 12, 2011.