As the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (“BOEM”) hosts a fact-finding forum in New Orleans, research has come out showing that the company responsible for the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is not an outlier when it comes to violating rules governing offshore drilling. Contrary to the view that BP stands alone in cutting corners, risking worker safety and environmental health, BP neither had the most violations the last decade nor was the oil giant fined the most by the Minerals Management Service, according to an investigation by the Gulf Restoration Network.
“Since this disaster began, the focus appears to be on BP as the bad actor—the implication being that this type of incident could not happen to other oil companies operating in the deep waters of the Gulf. Research shows that BP’s systemic negligence to safety and environmental concerns when drilling offshore is not company specific, rather it is an example of the oil industry’s state of mind as a whole,” said Cynthia Sarthou, GRN’s executive director.
For example, when ranking safety and inspection violations for the offshore oil industry over the last decade, Apache Corporation came out on top with 18 violations. BP tied for second with Forest Oil Corporation and Union Oil Company of California, all with 11 violations.
Other well-known oil companies were not far behind, with Chevron and Exxon trailing with 10 violations and 7 violations, respectively.
And BP did not even rank in the top five for amount fined for their safety and inspection violations in the past decade. (Source: http://www.mms.gov/civilpenalties/ )
Chevron was fined more than $1-million, with Apache Corporation and Pogo Producing Company coming in second and third, respectively. BP ranked seventh, being fined $558,000.
“Our research has revealed that too many of the oil companies drilling in the Gulf have poor safety records, with some companies having just as bad, if not worse safety records than BP. The industry’s systemic disregard for safety and regulations demonstrates that the federal government and the general public should point their finger at more than just BP,” Sarthou said.
The fact finding forum held at Tulane University’s McAlister Auditorium had representatives from the oil industry, academia, the fishing industry, and environmental organizations providing information to the BOEM. While comment cards were accepted at the forum, members of the public were unable to direct questions to the representatives who attended the forum. Future forums will be held in Mobile, Ala., Pensacola, Fla., Santa Barbara, Calif., Anchorage, Alaska, Biloxi, Miss., Houston, Texas, and Lafayette, La.
In terms of spilling oil in the past decade, prior to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP was already the industry leader, but many other companies were close behind. (Source: http://www.mms.gov/incidents/spills1996-2011.htm ). BP had more instances of spilling 50 barrels or more of substances in the Gulf of Mexico, with 22, while Shell and Chevron were close behind with 21 and 17 instances, respectively.
Additionally, all of the violations and spills happened in a time where MMS and private corporations admit that regulations on platforms were lax and inspections of platforms by MMS officials were not thorough enough to ensure safety.
Similar to BP with their Deepwater Horizon rig, other oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico exercise a careless disregard over their operations on their deepwater rigs. Additionally, like the faulty blowout preventer and other equipment used on the Deepwater Horizon, most of the oil industry uses similar technology on their rigs.
The Gulf Restoration Network wants to ensure that, if deepwater drilling continues, that drilling is done safely and adequate preventative and response technology is available to prevent another disaster like the Deepwater Horizon in the future. Additionally, the Gulf Restoration Network supports an investigation into the causes of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
“All of the oil companies have been gambling for a long time and it just so happened that BP lost,” Sarthou said. “Now the Gulf and our communities are paying the price.”