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January 11, 2011

Contacts: Maggie Kao (202) 675-2384 or Kristina Johnson (415) 977-5619

January 11, 2011
Contacts: Maggie Kao (202) 675-2384 or Kristina Johnson (415) 977-5619

Oil Spill Commission Releases Full Report on BP Disaster

Safety Problems Part of Industry Culture; More Oversight Needed

Washington, D.C. – Today, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released its full report on the BP disaster in the Gulf calling for widespread reform of the offshore drilling industry, including better safety regulations and more stringent enforcement by federal agencies.

Statement of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune

"We commend the oil spill commission for its thorough and thoughtful examination of the worst environmental disaster in our nation's history. This report is very timely, following a severe Alaskan pipeline leak this past week that reinforced the need for us to take a hard look at safety standards and our nation's addiction to oil.

Following today's report, our friends in the Gulf Coast will find little solace knowing that this tragedy could have been prevented. The commission found that the problems leading to the disaster are not unique to BP, but are pervasive within the oil industry. Unfortunately, preventable explosions like the one that sparked the BP disaster happen all too frequently. According to the report, fatalities on U.S. offshore rigs are much higher than others in the world, yet reported accidents and injuries are lower than most. This signals a systemic problem among these companies.

Sadly, industry-wide disregard for the health and safety of their workers and coastal communities persists.

The commission has laid out important steps that will inform recovery and restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast, improve oversight of the offshore drilling industry, ensure that oil companies like BP are held accountable to pay the full cost of restoration, redirect funds to rebuild the Gulf Coast ecosystem, provide more funding for enforcement of critical regulations and clean up in the communities when future disasters occur.

We need to make sure that the federal government follows through on the commission's recommendations to protect workers and coastal communities from future oil disasters, and that agencies, like the Interior Department have the resources they need to enforce new safety rules.

If we hope to reduce the number of oil spills, we will need to fully fund oversight and enforcement of offshore drilling, and the oil companies that profit from use of our shared public waters and lands should be at least partly responsible for funding these efforts. The Sierra Club is committed to making sure these recommendations are implemented.

But the only real way to make sure we don't see another drilling disaster is to start reducing our dependence on oil now. We already have efficiency technology and clean energy solutions that will help move our nation beyond oil and make offshore drilling unnecessary."

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The Sierra Club is pleased that the commission's report also includes several recommendations that have been priority elements of the Club's disaster response agenda, specifically:

  • Ensuring that 80 percent of the anticipated Clean Water Act penalties BP will pay are directed toward ecological restoration in the affected Gulf states;
  • Creating a Public Advisory Council to oversee how funds directed to the Gulf are used and to ensure sound science directs restoration projects;
  • Establishing a Regional Citizen's Advisory Council, which would improve accountability and restore the public's trust in recovery efforts and ideally be modeled after the Council created following the Exxon Valdez disaster;
  • Requiring higher-caliber emergency response plans for offshore drilling operations to protect the environment and worker safety; and
  • Making sure sound science informs decision-making about future offshore leasing efforts by suggesting a chief scientist position be created within the Interior Department to oversee leasing decisions.

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