Maybe Gulf disaster will finally force changes

Published 11:16 am Thursday, June 24, 2010

The American people and BP officials can agree about one thing on the still-escalating Gulf oil disaster: “This tragic accident … should have never happened.”

That was BP PLC Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg on Wednesday, right after BP execs got a stern talking-to at the White House from President Barack Obama. It must have been Obama’s best speech this week.

Now Obama and his team need to jettison for good the cozy regulatory relationship and deferential attitude that have existed too long between U.S. officials and oil company executives.

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Because of that deference, U.S. officials failed to challenge BP right after the April 20 blowout that killed 11 oil-rig workers on the company’s disaster-response pace, its approach and its figures on the amount of oil escaping.

It was deference that created a regulatory vacuum in which dangerous safety shortcuts appear to have become all too easy to accomplish. …

Obama’s team has to redouble critically important efforts to find technical experts outside BP who can brainstorm solutions — then get down to the task of uncovering just what flawed decision processes, safety lapses and equipment failures led to this disaster, and how to prevent another.

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, June 17