Three years after an investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, members of a presidential panel say Congress has failed to adopt needed offshore-drilling safety reforms and environmental protections.
“Unfortunately Congress has really not acted to protect against future disasters,” Frances Ulmer, the chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and a member of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, said in an interview.
President Obama established the commission in the aftermath of the 2010 spill to identify ways to improve drilling safety, prevent future accidents, and provide for coastal recovery. In its final report, issued in January 2011, the commission made recommendations to achieve these objectives and called on Congress, the executive branch, and the energy industry to carry them out.
“We were asked to come up with a report within six months of the accident and provide not only a description of what we felt went wrong but also what we felt could be done better in the future,” Ulmer said.
Lawmakers have so far implemented only one of the recommendations outlined by the commission.
In 2012, Congress passed the Restore Act, codifying one of the central reforms suggested by the panel — the requirement that 80 percent of civil penalties paid out for the spill under the Clean Water Act be set aside for Gulf restoration.
Lawmakers involved in the bill’s passage say it provides relief for affected communities.
“I am proud to have helped lead the effort to secure passage of the Restore Act,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., one of the authors of the Senate version of the bill. “It will allow Louisiana in particular to get a jump start on our coastal restoration work.”
But the legislation does not address drilling safety or set up environmental safeguards in the event of a future disaster.
“The problem is that so many of the recommended reforms have not been put in place,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “This includes removing the liability cap [for companies implicated in offshore-drilling accidents], extending whistle-blower protections so regulators have access to needed information before an accident occurs, and increasing the capability to deal with spills.”
Where Congress has been slow to act, federal agencies and industry have picked up the slack.
“Industry has encouraged adoption of best safety practices and the Interior Department has done a lot to carry out the reforms, including improving the quality of offshore safety inspections,” said Bob Graham, a former Democratic governor and senator from Florida who cochaired the spill commission.
“But even though the executive branch has enacted a lot of important changes, if there were to be a new administration these changes could be rolled back. That’s why we still need Congress to make these changes permanent by enforcing them under law,” he added.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., agreed that the job is far from complete. “I’m very proud of the Restore Act but I certainly hope and intended for the House and Senate to exercise diligent oversight and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we find that there is more that can be done or needs to be done here,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process.”
What We're Following See More »
Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.
Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”
"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."