Federal Relations

January 12, 2011

White House Oil Spill Commission Report Released

Yesterday, the commission tasked by President Obama to examine the BP Deepwater Horizon undersea accident of last spring released its findings and recommendations. The commission addressed a range of topics from the need for increased regulation to funding for oil spill research to long-term restoration of the Gulf. 

Some of the ideas offered:

  • Create a distinct environmental science office within the Department of Interior;
  • Formalize the role of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in offering input on  environmental protection in Interior leasing decisions;
  • Assign responsibility for congressional oversight of drilling safety and environmental protection to one specific committee in each chamber and require annual oversight hearings;
  • Provide mandatory funding for oil spill research and response technology at a level equal to or greater than that authorized by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990;
  • Significantly increase the Oil Pollution Act’s liability cap and financial responsibility requirements for offshore facilities;
  • Dedicate 80% of any Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon spill to long-term restoration of the Gulf of Mexico; and
  • Along with federal agencies and responsible parties, take steps to restore consumer confidence in the aftermath of a significant spill.

It is expected that Congress will again try to assemble an oil spill bill. During the previous Congress, ideological differences over government regulation and the liability cap hampered efforts to pass a bill. Previous drafts have contained significant investments in research and development, and we will push for those provisions to remain in the mix going forward.