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Spill panel slams Congress over inaction on safety

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 3:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 3:43 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A presidential commission that investigated the Gulf oil spill blasted Congress for inaction Tuesday as it issued a report card on industry and government response to the massive BP oil spill.

"Across the board, we are disappointed with Congress's lack of action. Two years have passed since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers, and Congress has yet to enact one piece of legislation to make drilling safer," said former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat who co-chaired the presidential commission.
Congress earned a "D'' from the seven former commissioners, who have reunited to press for action to improve drilling safety. The group said Congress has provided neither leadership nor financial support for safety improvement efforts.
Congress's failure to act stands in contrast to both the Obama administration and the oil industry, which have both made important safety advances, Graham and other commissioners said. The administration received a "B'' grade while the oil industry received a "C-plus."
The Interior Department, which oversees offshore drilling, has taken a series of steps to improve safety and environmental protection, the group said, including separating leasing and environmental review functions from regulatory oversight.
Industry also has made improvements, including installation of capping stacks in the Gulf of Mexico that can be used if an underwater well experiences a blowout. When the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred in April 2010, there were no capping stacks in place.
William K. Reilly, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and a co-chair of the presidential commission, said he was encouraged by progress being made by the Interior Department and the oil industry, including BP.
"In every way they have significantly improved their game" since the spill, Reilly said in an interview, calling the London-based company "newly attentive to operational safety" under U.S-born CEO Bob Dudley.
"They are a transforming company," Reilly said of BP.
He was less forgiving of Congress, calling their reaction to the spill "very partisan and negative."
Last year, the panel called for a series of steps to improve offshore drilling safety, from boosting budgets and training at the agency that oversees drilling to increasing the liability cap for companies that drill offshore.
Only one proposal appears to have a chance in Congress: diverting 80 percent of the water pollution fines from the disaster to Gulf Coast states affected by the spill. Even that proposal has withered as inland states press to keep their share of the money.
With gasoline prices rising, the focus of Republicans and the White House in an election year has turned to boosting domestic oil and gas production.
The report card from the presidential panel came as the conservation group Oceana issued its own report card calling government and industry response to the spill "woefully inadequate." The group gave Congress an "F."
Reilly, who led the EPA under former President George H.W. Bush, said the oil spill panel recognized that Congress had held hearings and that many lawmakers are trying to enact reforms.
"We wanted to encourage people in a positive direction," he said. "We didn't want to insult the whole institution with failure that an 'F' would've indicated."
The presidential panel has reformed itself as Oil Spill Commission Action and has received money from a foundation set up by the founders of Wal-Mart. Much of the work is being done on a volunteer basis, Reilly said, adding that no decisions have been made on how long the group will stay together.
Oil Spill Commission Action:
Twitter: (at)MatthewDalyWDC
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


This is information from an email sent by Representative Damon J. Baldone right after the spill.  




Phone Numbers:

  • To report oiled wildlife: (Leave message. Messages are checked hourly.) 1-866-557-1401
  • To discuss spill related damage: 1-800-440-0858
  • To report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information: 1-866-448-5816
  • To register as consultant, contractor, vendor or submit information an alternative response technology, services, products, or suggestions: 281-366-5511
  • To report and register boats available to assist with response: 281-366-5511
  • Claims: 1-800-440-0858
  • Investor Relations: 381-366-3123
  • Transocean hotline: 832-587-8554
  • BP family and 3rd party contractor hotline: 281-366-5578
  • Joint Information Center: 985-902-5231; 985-902-5240


Deepwater Horizon Q&A – Industry safety and responsibility

Q: What happened to the Deepwater Horizon rig? What are the potential environmental consequences?

A: We don’t know for sure yet, but investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard and other state and government agencies are on the scene. Results from the investigation will be used by the industry, in cooperation with regulators, to reduce the chances that incidents such as this one happen again.

Q: Were there any previous safety violations or incidents with the Deepwater Horizon rig?

A: The Deepwater Horizon was one of five Transocean ships given safety awards by the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) in 2009, and that the ship was inspected three times since January by the regional MMS office and found to be in compliance.

Q: News reports indicate that API and others in the industry opposed new safety regulations proposed by the Mineral Management Service in September 2009? Does API and the industry oppose new safety regulations?

A: Neither API nor its member companies oppose safety regulations. API supports the development of safety management systems and expressed concern to the government about the potential effectiveness of the proposed safety regulations.

Strong, comprehensive, and effective safety and environmental management systems are vital to drilling operations. API and industry companies voluntarily developed and continue to maintain Recommended Practice 75, Development of a Safety and Environmental Management Program for Offshore Operations and Facilities. This document was originally developed in 1993, with a third edition published in 2004 and reaffirmed in 2008, and its guidance is followed by many Gulf of Mexico operators. The MMS proposal would adopt only portions of this document, while re-writing other provisions. We are concerned that this ultimately could work counter to the goal of safe and environmentally sound operations. API and the industry will continue to work with MMS, the Coast Guard and other agencies to ensure that any regulations first and foremost protect the workers.

During the past several decades, API has brought together the best minds in the industry and at the MMS to develop dozens of standards and best practice documents that contain guidance and recommendations to address safety concerns. Both the MMS and the Coast Guard often incorporate industry standards into their regulations, giving them the force of law, and the standards and recommended practices are regularly reviewed and updated.

Q: What is the offshore oil and natural gas industry’s record when it comes to worker safety and accidents?

A: According to MMS data, the overall safety and environmental performance on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) has shown steady improvement over the past decade. Between 1996 and 2008, for combined operations on the OCS, the recordable lost workday incident rates fell from a 3.39 rate in 1996 to a 0.64 rate in 2008 – a reduction of more than 80 percent.

Q: What does the oil and natural gas industry do to safeguard against oil spills?

A: Offshore oil and gas exploration and production operations have been successfully and safely conducted in the U.S. since the 1940s. Since that time, industry, government and oil spill response organizations in the United States have worked together to develop an effective oil spill prevention, preparedness and response regime that is recognized for excellence around the world.

Under federal law, all companies with offshore facilities must file oil spill contingency plans with the MMS and emergency response plans with the U.S. Coast Guard. Companies must ensure that spill response equipment is available and properly maintained, and that employees are adequately trained. Federal and state agencies conduct drills and inspections to ensure response capabilities are maintained at a high level.

Additionally, specialized spill prevention equipment, such as blowout preventers, are installed at the wellhead during the drilling phase to control pressure in the well should there be an unexpected rise in pressure or a loss of well control. Blowout preventers are critical to offshore safety and are inspected and tested regularly.

Q: In the event of an oil spill, what measures does the oil and natural gas industry take to minimize damage?

A: Every day, a network of tanker ships, pipelines and trucks safely delivers millions of gallons of oil and natural gas to fuel the American economy. Spills are rare, but when they do occur, the oil and natural gas industry and U.S. government work together to employ the world’s leading preparedness planning and response capabilities to minimize environmental harm.

The industry’s primary response objectives are to prevent the spill from moving onto shore, to reduce the impact on marine life and to speed the degradation of any unrecovered oil. Companies use several approaches to alleviate the spill. This can include using booms to divert or contain oil to be recovered via skimmers or simply burned off and the use of dispersants and sorbents. The industry spends many millions of dollars annually funding oil spill response entities that rapidly deploy necessary equipment and materials to contain a spill should one occur.

Q: How does the oil and natural gas industry work to ensure safety in its offshore operations?

A: Safety is a core value for the oil and natural gas industry. API and our member companies follow and constantly improve best practices for safe offshore operations, including training, operational procedures, regulations, industry standards and technology. The industry works closely with local, state and federal regulators, including the Coast Guard and the MMS, to help ensure a strong focus on safety.

Stringent regulatory oversight helps maintain environmental performance, as offshore operators must obtain 17 major federal permits and must comply with 90 sets of regulations to operate on the federal Outer Continental Shelf. MMS and the Coast Guard conduct tens of thousands of offshore facility inspections annually.

Q: What is the oil and natural gas industry doing to improve workplace safety?

A: Safety is an integral part of the oil and natural gas industry’s culture and a core value that calls for continual improvement. Offshore operators and contractors have comprehensive management programs that assess safety and environmental hazards system wide and establish procedures, work practices, training programs, and equipment requirements, including monitoring and maintenance rules, for continuous improvement.

The industry uses a variety of technologies and equipment to protect workers and the environment. Computers monitor thousands of operating checkpoints and instantly flag any abnormal condition. Electronic systems allow workers to monitor systems and remotely operate equipment from a distance, including unmanned underwater vehicles to install and maintain equipment.

Q: In light of this accident, can we safely develop these resources?

A: Offshore oil and gas exploration and production operations have been successfully and safely conducted in the U.S. since the 1940s. Since that time, industry, government and oil spill response organizations in the United States have worked together to develop an effective oil spill prevention, preparedness and response regime that is recognized for excellence around the world.

The strong environmental performance of U.S. offshore production facilities was demonstrated in 2005 during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when the industry was able to safely evacuate its workers and shut down production of more than 3,000 offshore platforms that withstood winds gusts over 200 mph without any significant offshore spills.

The industry’s commitment to advanced technology and safe operations protects America’s natural resources, while reinforcing the petroleum industry’s commitment to the safe production and delivery of energy products with the lightest environmental footprint possible.

Q: What is API’s role in ensuring the safety of offshore drilling operations?

A: API is a leader in the development of industry standards and practices to improve offshore operational safety. In all, API has produced dozens of standards and best practices related to drilling equipment and offshore operations, which contribute to safer working environments. Many of these standards are cited by the U.S. Minerals Management Service in their regulations. API is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is audited regularly to ensure it continues to meet all ANSI requirements.

Getting Involved


Jobs are available and you can visit the website at  for more information.

Training & Volunteer Opportunities
  • Beginning Monday, May 3, job seekers can get more information on the week’s events by calling 1-877-529-6751.
  • The company will be hiring for general labor, crew leader, site supervisor, site safety representative and lead safety representative positions. Duties include debris removal and placing protective barriers along shorelines and beaches. Job seekers must be at least 18 years old and have their own transportation. Applicants must be available to work seven days a week and will live in a shared hotel environment. Workforce Commission services are offered at no cost to employers and participating job seekers.
  • To report oil on land and for Community and Volunteer Information, call 1-866-448-5816.
  • To offer your vessel for service or submit alternative response technology, services or products, call 281-366-5511 or email
  • You can register through to volunteer or join a cleanup organization.
  • The BP Volunteer Hotline has set up numbers if you need to report injured wildlife or damage related to the spill. You can also request volunteer information at 866-448-5816.
  • The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is providing volunteer information, though help from private citizens is not being requested at this time.

Phone Numbers & Websites

  • To report oiled wildlife - 1.866.557.1401 (Leave message. Messages are checked hourly.)
  • To discuss spill related damage - 1.800.440.0858
  • To report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information - 1.866.448.5816


A key feature of BP’s response to the Gulf oil spill is the growing contingent of fishermen and boaters from communities along the Gulf shoreline participating in BP’s "Vessel of Opportunity" program.

As part of the effort, operators of many types of vessels throughout the Gulf Coast are using their boats in a variety of clean-up activities, including transporting supplies, performing wildlife rescue, and towing and deploying “booms” (floating barriers designed to contain, deflect, or hold back oil floating on the water’s surface).

Already more than 1,000 people have received training in such areas as oil spill response safety and boom towing and handling, and vessels are being organized in 25-boat “task forces” that can be dispatched from numerous spots along the coast. More than 500 vessels of opportunity are now operating as part of the program.

BP employees are also participating in the program, providing assistance in areas such as communications and safety. Contractors from O'Brien's Response Management, a global provider of crisis management services, are also taking part in the program.

To qualify for the program, operators need to meet several key requirements, including attending a four-hour training session, passing a dockside examination by the U.S. Coast Guard, and meeting crewing requirements based on the size of the vessel provided.

Eligible vessels will be compensated for their assistance.

Applicants interested in taking part in the program should call this BP hotline number: +1 (281) 366-5511. 


Media Contact: Ashley Roth, Communications Manager, 504-286-8735 or 228-342-0659 or

Statement from Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board Regarding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) closure of federal waters affected by the BP Oil Spill

From Ewell Smith, Executive Director, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board

“This afternoon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that they are restricting fishing for a minimum of ten days in the portion of federal waters that have been impacted  by the oil spill resulting from the sinking of the BP Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.  This area is largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay.  These waters will be closed to fishing for minimum of ten days.

“We support NOAA ‘s precautionary closure of the affected area.  This is just one more step that our Louisiana seafood industry and partners are taking to be proactive in ensuring consumer safety.  The nation should remember that this closure only pertains to the impacted area of the Gulf of Mexico, not the entire Gulf. The Louisiana state waters west of the Mississippi River are still open and the seafood being harvested from those areas is safe.  The state waters that remain open and unaffected by the spill account for 77 percent of the state’s total seafood production, which has an economic impact of $2.4 billion to our state.”

To view the announcement from NOAA and a detailed map, please visit


Ewell Smith
Executive Director
Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board
University of New Orleans Research and Technology Park
2021 Lakeshore Dr. # 300
New Orleans, Louisiana 70122

Contact your Legislator

Legislators are currently in Session in Baton Rouge.  You can access your local Senator and Representative by clicking on the names  below. This will take you to a section showing all bills that the Legislators have filed for the 2010 Session.  


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