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A year after Deepwater Horizon: Leaders look back

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A year ago today, the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and marking the beginning of one of the worst ecological disasters in U.S. history. The legacy of the incident may not yet be clear, but getting the thoughts of industry and political leaders about the incident could help indicate where the country is a year later.


Though not the sole company involved in the accident, BP was often the target of critics during the past year. BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said last week at the company’s annual general meeting that BP will not shirk its responsibilities and that it would work to ensure the safety of its employees.

“The tragic accident and related oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico affected many people and communities. Our response was without precedent and, I think, has been recognized as such. … But it is important to remember that both our own investigation and the presidential [oil-spill] commission found that the accident had a number of causes and involved a number of parties,” he said.

The administration

President Barack Obama said in a March 30 speech that he wants the U.S. to cut oil imports by a third in the next 10 years. As part of his plan, the president said, the U.S. needs to increase domestic oil production — including offshore. But first, producers must meet new requirements.

“What we learned from that disaster helped us put in place smarter standards of safety and responsibility. For example, if you’re going to drill in deepwater, you’ve got to prove before you start drilling that you can actually contain an underwater spill. That’s just common sense,” Obama said.

The opposition

The debate in the House and Senate has been largely along party lines. While most federal lawmakers agreed that reform of offshore-drilling safety was needed, opinions varied on to what needed to change and how long the changes should take. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has said the Obama administration is moving too slowly in allowing companies to resume drilling. He has also been critical of a rush to implement reforms before all of the facts are known about BP’s spill.

“When we get all that information, then we will act accordingly, and I think the American people want us to act accordingly,” Hastings said. “But I don’t think it does any good for our American-made energy, for example, to rush to something when we don’t have all the facts,” Hastings said in a recent interview.