Oil spill commission chief: BP has 'learned its lesson' in the Gulf

Oil giant BP has “learned its lesson” from the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the co-chairman of a commission that investigated the disaster said Sunday.

“I believe BP is a transforming culture,” William Reilly, the co-chairman of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, said during an interview with Platts Energy Week.

The interview comes just days after the two-year anniversary of the spill, which dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf and resulted in the death of 11 rig workers.

Reilly, a Republican who led the Environmental Protection Agency under former President George H.W. Bush, said BP has made “very significant progress” in improving drilling safety.

“What I hear from people that are working with them in the field is that they are scrupulous about applying new rigorous standards of oversight,” Reilly, who was a vocal critic of BP in the aftermath of the spill, said.

Reilly said BP requires stringent oversight of its drilling procedures, noting that it is the first company to require double shear rams for blow-out preventers.

“I think it’s a company that learned its lesson. I mean it should have, it had a $100 billion market cap destruction and undetermined yet total cost as a result of fines and penalties,” he said. “But yes, I believe they deserve a lot of credit.”

President Obama charged the oil spill commission with investigating the disaster in May 2010. After months of work, the panel issued a report in early 2011 that recommended a series of sweeping improvements both within the federal government and the oil industry. 

The commission, which was also headed by former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), disbanded in March 2011, but reformed earlier this year as “Oil Spill Commission Action” to ensure its recommendations are not forgotten.

The group released a report earlier this week that criticized Congress for not taking more action to address problems identified by the commission.

Reilly, in the interview Sunday, specifically criticized House Republicans for not acting on the commission’s recommendations.

He said they were often “contemptuous of the commission” and dismissive of the work that the members of the panel had done. 

“We expected a little better treatment,” Reilly said, defending the commission’s work. 

“It was necessary,” he said. “It was an appropriate response and I think now the country is better off for it.”