Oil Spill Commission Forum Stresses Need for Tougher Industry Standards, Better Safety Practices, and Coastal Restoration

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling held a public forum yesterday (Jan. 12) in New Orleans to discuss the commission’s final report that was released the day before with approximately 250 interested members of the public.  Representatives from the National Wildlife Federation’s coastal Louisiana restoration team and oil spill commission members Donald F. Boesch and Frances G. Beinecke attended the public meeting.

The commission members summarized the report’s findings and recommendations, including the need for tougher industry standards, better safety practices, and increased scientific research.  Additionally, the report recommends raising the current $75 million oil spill liability cap and dedicating at least 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines to restore the Gulf.

Boesch explained how the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion was “preventable and foreseeable,” making the disaster all the more tragic.  Decades had passed without a major spill in coastal waters, but it was that very false sense of security that masked the dangers of drilling in deep water.  He equated the situation to rolling dice, and how on April 20, 2010, our luck ran out.

Beinecke commented on how the oil spill was a tragedy for the Gulf of Mexico and that the government must ensure the highest safely practices are put in place moving forward.  There is an increased need to focus on safety – not just for people on the rigs – but for people in the coastal communities who are affected by a disaster such as the Gulf oil spill.

The oil spill commission gathered input from all across the Gulf and coastal Louisiana on a variety of issues before drafting their report – from the public’s mental and physical health – to safer oil policies and stricter regulations to reviving the Gulf ecosystem.

Boesch – a Louisiana native – said that the damage done to the Gulf ecosystem from the oil spill pales in comparison to the damage done to the wetlands during the past several decades.  As Louisiana’s wetlands are destroyed, the region becomes less capable of supporting the oil and gas industry.  That’s why the commission’s report recommends that 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties be reinvested into Gulf and coastal Louisiana restoration.

The commission members also emphasized their commitment to seeing the report’s recommendations through to implementation.  They stressed that the report cannot just go on a shelf: it is their job to ensure these recommendations get adopted and put into action.

You can read the commission’s full report here.