US House Dems request GAO federal offshore spill protocols probe

Democratic leaders on the US House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the federal government’s readiness to response to offshore oil spills.

Democratic leaders on the US House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the federal government’s readiness to response to offshore oil spills. Their Aug. 5 request came after the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Emergency Management told the committee’s majority staff that OEM does not plan to immediately finalize changes to regulation of chemical dispersants that were proposed following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Trump Administration’s misguided proposals to expand drilling in most US continental shelf waters and roll back important offshore drilling safety regulations may increase the risk of another catastrophic spill. It is imperative that the federal government is adequately prepared to respond to offshore oil spills,” Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chair Paul Tonko (D-NY) said in their letter.

An estimated 4.9 million bbl of crude leaked into the gulf over several months after the Macondo deepwater well blew out and Transocean Inc.’s Deepwater Horizon rig, which was drilling it, was destroyed in a fire that killed 11 and injured 17 people on Apr. 20, 2010.

“Based in part on considerations learned from the Deepwater Horizon response, in 2015, EPA proposed a series of changes to the regulations governing chemical dispersants used in oil spills,” the lawmakers said. “However, EPA has yet to finalize the updates to the regulations, which were last revised in 1994.”

Leaders from EPA’s OEM told the committee’s staff on July 23 that the agency does not intend to finalize these important regulatory updates until 2022, at the earliest, the lawmakers said. They specifically asked GAO to determine what specifically is known about the efficacy of using dispersants and their effects on human health and the environment, and determine the extent to which EPA, the US Coast Guard, and other federal agencies incorporated lessons learned and the latest research on dispersants into offshore oil spill response planning protocols, policies, and regulations.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@endeavorb2b.com.

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