The first solid looks at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion are indicative of a trend of poorly regulated offshore rigs across the United States.
Wednesday’s hearings by congressional and administration panels – in Washington and in Louisiana – laid out a checklist of unseen breakdowns on largely unregulated aspects of well safety that appear to have contributed to the April 20 blowout: a leaky cement job, a loose hydraulic fitting, a dead battery.
The trail of problems highlights the reality that, even as the U.S. does more deepwater offshore drilling in a quest for domestic oil, some key safety components are left almost entirely to the discretion of the companies doing the work.
It remains unclear what, if anything, Congress or the Obama administration may do to address these regulatory deficiencies.
So far, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has proposed splitting his department’s Minerals Management Service in two to make safety enforcement independent of the agency’s other main function – collecting billions in royalties from the drilling industry.