Thursday, May 6, 2010

BP has fought safety measures for deepwater oil rigs since Clinton days

WASHINGTON - BP, the company that chartered the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April, spent years battling federal regulators over how many layers of safeguards were needed to prevent a rig accident of the type that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon.
One area of immediate concern, industry experts said, was the lack of a remote system that would have allowed workers to clamp shut Deepwater Horizon's wellhead so it would not continue to gush oil.
The well drilled by the rig was still spilling 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico on May 4.
In a letter sent as late as 2009 to the U.S. Department of the Interior, BP objected to what it called "extensive, prescriptive regulations" proposed in new rules to toughen safety standards. "We believe industry's current safety and environmental statistics demonstrate that the voluntary programs continue to be very successful."
While BP's arguments against safeguards date to the Clinton administration, BP won the greatest concessions during the Bush administration.
The agency said operators were expected to have multiple layers of protection to prevent a spill.
But according to aides to Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has followed offshore drilling issues for years, the industry aggressively lobbied against an additional layer of protection known as an "acoustic system," saying it was too costly. In a March 2003 report, the agency reversed course, and said that layer of protection was no longer needed.

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