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Report faults emphasis on oil production over safety

WASHINGTON — The petroleum industry and federal regulators focused more on exploration and production than safety in the years leading up to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, helping to set the stage for the worst offshore environmental disaster in U.S. history, according to a new independent report by the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council.

Conducted at the behest of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the report said the "multiple flawed decisions that led to a blowout" on the Deepwater Horizon rig resulted from "a deficient overall systems approach to safety" among the corporations that ran the drilling of the Macondo well, including BP, Transocean and Halliburton.

The report, titled Macondo Well — Deepwater Horizon Blowout, Lessons for Improving Offshore Drilling Safety, echoed many findings in previous studies of the disaster. But it added new levels of detail and put the nation's top engineering peer group behind a call for redesigning a massive set of valves, rams and hydraulic devices once thought to be fail-safe: the blowout preventer that failed to stem the flow of more than 200 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico.

The report committee's chairman, former Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, said improvements in regulatory oversight and industry response to offshore disasters gave him confidence that offshore drilling should continue. But he stressed that more work needed to be done.

The Interior Department said in a statement that it welcomed the report's findings, which it said backed the regulatory policies it has pursued since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010.

The department introduced more stringent environmental and safety regulations, and the industry responded by developing new oil spill response and containment systems, incorporating lessons from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

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To see the National Academy of Engineering report, go to bit.ly/vQK3ai

Report faults emphasis on oil production over safety 12/14/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 10:02pm]
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