posted on Feb, 2 2011 @ 01:46 PM
Although offshore drilling had been going on for decades, the 1970s drive to develop domestic energy supplies accelerated pursuit of oil under U.S.
coastal waters. In 1982, Reagan administration Secretary of the Interior James Watt created the Minerals Management Service (MMS) to promote offshore
drilling by dramatically expanding drilling on the outer continental shelf. From the outset, MMS was also responsible for collecting money from leases
and drilling royalties, so had an incentive to maximize revenue, creating an inherent conflict with its regulatory role.
As companies became increasingly ambitious in their exploration, they moved into deeper water and more complex subsurface geology using more
complicated drilling methods. "Those increased risks," writes the Commission, "were not matched by greater, more sophisticated oversight." The
industry failed to "match its massive investments in oil and gas development and production with comparable investments in drilling safety and
oil-spill containment technology and contingency response planning." Government attempts to increase oversight, says the Commission, were "regularly
and intensely resisted."
At the same time, the report explains, the deepwater offshore drilling industry began to rely more heavily on a network of partner companies,
contractors, and subcontractors for each individual well - a trend that continues to this day. This use of partnerships and subcontracts was intended
to make use of multiple companies' capabilities and expertise. (The report doesn't discuss whether or not the desire to share liability may have
influenced this practice, but it seems a question worth asking.) But this structure, now an inherent feature of deepwater drilling, is also vulnerable
to gaps in communication - gaps that plagued the Deepwater Horizon response.
Like the industry's complex, multi-partner arrangements for well-drilling, the government's plan for addressing oil spills distributes
responsibilities between multiple actors.
edit on 2-2-2011 by oibena because: (no reason given)