The well is dead but its damage lives on in the Gulf of Mexico. Are we at risk for another catastrophic blowout?
There is still oil on the beaches, in the wetlands and on the ocean floor. No one knows how much. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has formally announced the beginning of the natural resource damages assessment, the formal process in which the federal and state natural resources trustees decide what damage the oil spill caused to the environment, and what projects should be funded (by BP) to restore the damage. This is likely to be a multi-billion dollar effort that will take years to complete.
The Department of the Interior recently issued powerful new rules to govern new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf. This was a very positive step, but two important questions remain unanswered. First, what will the criteria be for the new spill and containment plans required by the new rules? Second, how will the safety and environmental review functions within the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management and Regulation (BOEMRE) be insulated from the leasing function so as to eliminate the inherent conflict of interest that affected decisionmaking at BOEMRE’s predecessor agency, the Minerals Management Service.
Stepping up a level, Congress has failed to enact any new legislation to address either the BP oil spill or the nation’s need to move away from fossil fuels, towards a clean energy future.
Six months have passed – and years of effort remain.