The right message from Deepwater Horizon

Recently, the Peter Berg film Deepwater Horizon provided the Hollywood version of the Macondo Well accident. Putting the inaccuracies and biased slant aside, the film rightly reminded us of the bravery and sacrifice of the 126 men and women who were on the rig when the accident occurred in April 2010, and especially the 11 crew members who died.

We owe it to that crew, and to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who depend on the offshore energy industry for their livelihoods, to continually raise the safety standard offshore. Safety is a process, not an endpoint.

{mosads}Over the past six-and-a-half years, the industry has developed new safety equipment and improved safety procedures that are being adopted worldwide and more than 100 new or revised industry standards have been issued. Industry and government have also worked together to ensure a more coordinated effort to prevent future spills and to respond more effectively when they occur. Some examples include:

  • A Center for Offshore Safety, established by industry, partnered with the regulatory community, and endowed with a mission to ensure that the latest advances and innovations in safety technologies and practices are shared broadly among industry players.
  • Collaboration between the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that has led to updated district protection plans.
  • New technologies designed to prevent spills and clean them up faster, including one developed by one of my group’s members that can be deployed to collect oil flowing from a deepwater well almost immediately after an incident occurs.
  • Lessons from the use of chemical dispersants following the Deepwater Horizon incident that will help us to use them more effectively and with less environmental impact in the future.

Unfortunately, some new and proposed government policies could undermine some of the progress that we’ve made. The biggest challenge right now is the implementation of the Obama Administration’s “well control rule.” While well-intentioned, it could have unintended consequences in the form of higher costs and potentially less safety and environmental protection. The devil is in the details, we are monitoring implementation of the rule closely, and continue to provide important feedback and industry insight to the regulators.   But we don’t want to backtrack on the success we’ve had in making the industry safer.

Peter Berg’s film rightly shines a light on the brave men and women who work on and service the nation’s offshore drilling rigs. And it reminds us that in exchange for the risks they take to provide us all with affordable domestic energy, they deserve to work in jobs that are as safe as we can possibly make them.

Randall Luthi is the president of the National Ocean Industries Association.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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