WASHINGTON – The presidential commission examining the causes of the BP oil spill Wednesday laid blame for the disaster on corporate mismanagement, inadequate government regulation and ultimately a lack of political will to ensure proper oversight of the oil industry as it pushed drilling rigs into ever deeper waters.
Releasing a key chapter of its final report on the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the commission recounted what is by now the well-known string of missteps that led to one of the world’s largest offshore oil spills.
But it went on to issue a broader indictment, calling for both the industry and the government to reform their practices or risk a repeat of the BP disaster, which killed 11 men and tainted the Gulf with 205 million gallons of crude.
“The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again,” the chapter said. “Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”
The commission, established in May by President Barack Obama to examine the causes of the blowout and make recommendations to prevent future spills, will issue its full report next week.
The findings suggest that the Justice Department may have a strong case in the civil lawsuit it filed against BP, rig owner Transocean Ltd. and other companies involved in the spill for violation of the Clean Water Act. Legal experts say criminal charges against the companies are likely to follow.
David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan who formerly headed the Justice Department’s environmental crimes unit, said the latest report chapter reinforces that all the companies involved in the spill “are going to face substantial liabilities.”