Oceana released a new report today finding that offshore drilling remains dirty and dangerous nine years after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, which claimed the lives of 11 people and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Yet despite significant shortcomings in offshore drilling safety, President Trump is working to weaken key safety and environmental protections currently in place, while also proposing to radically expand offshore drilling activities.
“Less safety and more drilling is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “President Trump must drastically reverse course in order to prevent another BP Deepwater Horizon-like disaster. We should not be expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling to new areas when there’s overwhelming bipartisan opposition. We should be strengthening safety, not further weakening the few safety measures currently in place. Coastal communities and our environment cannot afford another environmental catastrophe, which is where we are headed under President Trump’s proposals. It’s time for President Trump to stand with coastal communities, not the oil and gas industry.”
Among the report findings include:
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) relies heavily on industry-written safety standards to regulate offshore drilling and does not provide adequate oversight or enforcement.
BSEE regularly grants exemptions to offshore drilling safety requirements.
Blowout preventers are the last line of defense against a catastrophic spill but are not reliable and have not been tested under conditions that replicate the extreme real-world environment to which they may be exposed.
BSEE’s current inspection and enforcement actions do not result in comprehensive oversight of offshore drilling activities. As of 2018, BSEE employed roughly 120 inspectors to conduct more than 20,000 inspections annually.
Civil penalties for violating offshore operating requirements are grossly inadequate and fail to deter corner-cutting. Penalties are capped at only $44,675 per day per violation while operating costs for offshore drilling facilities can be approximately $1 million per day.
1,568 injuries were reported by offshore operators between 2011 and 2017.
At the time of the BP disaster, the U.S. offshore oil industry had the highest reported rate of fatalities among its international peers, but the lowest amount of reported injuries, signaling the potential of under-reporting.
The U.S. oil and gas industry’s fatality rate (both onshore and offshore) was an average of seven times higher than among other U.S. workers in general between 2003 and 2013.
At least 6,500 oil spills occurred in U.S. waters between 2007 and 2017, and a recent study found that spills are typically far larger than what is reported.
Oil spills cannot be cleaned up effectively, with methods that have largely remained unchanged since the late 1980s. Clean-up costs alone amounted to over $14 billion in the years directly following the BP disaster.
Despite federal requirements for companies to decommission their facilities and related infrastructure after oil production ends, when financially at-risk companies fail to do so, taxpayers may face the burden of those costs.
“The facts are startling and the time for action is now – the stakes are too high,” said Hoskins. “We cannot gamble with the health and safety of our oceans and coasts.”
Oceana makes the following recommendations:
President Trump should direct his administration to halt all efforts to expand offshore drilling activities to new areas and abandon attempts to weaken safety regulations.
BSEE should seek transformative changes to industry’s safety culture through greater inspections and enforcement, and by reducing reliance on industry-written standards.
Congress must substantially increase financial penalties for safety violations to deter dangerous, non-compliant behavior and ensure that risk-tasking is no longer profitable.
Congress must require accurate oil spill reporting, establish industry-specific penalties for under-reporting, increase federal resources and research new clean-up technologies.
To access Oceana’s full report, infographic and other materials, please visit oceana.org/DirtyDrilling.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 200 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit usa.oceana.org to learn more.