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Government Report on Deepwater Horizon Spill Fails to Recognize Its Own Responsibility

An official report released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE, formerly MMS) and the Coast Guard puts BP, Transocean, and other contractors at the center of blame for the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. The report states that the blowout was largely a “result of poor risk management, last‐minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well control response, and insufficient emergency bridge response training by companies and individuals responsible for drilling at the Macondo well”.

Although the report closely analyzes the technical failures associated with the blowout, it fails to assign fair responsibility to the laws, regulations and systems set in place by the government to prevent such disasters. While the report asserts that it found “no evidence that MMS regulations in effect on April 20, 2010 were a cause of the blowout,” it goes on to acknowledge that “MMS regulations in place at the time of the blowout could be enhanced in a number of areas.”

In January 2011, WRI produced a thematic timeline highlighting key reoccurring governance failures that contributed to the spill. The piece highlights weak regulatory systems and the need to address the "institutional culture of managerial irresponsibility and lack of accountability" within the U.S. Department of Interior. Additional governance reforms, such as those outlined in President Obama’s Oil Spill Commission, are needed in order to make meaningful changes in the management of offshore oil resources. The government’s report rightfully holds BP and other corporate actors accountable for the spill. It should hold itself to the same level of accountability.

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