BP is in discussions with federal officials at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) to get permits to resume deepwater drilling in its existing oil fields in the Gulf, perhaps as soon as this summer. The timing might be unpredictable but federal approval seems inevitable since BP holds many leases in the Gulf and is one of the top global players in offshore oil production. Besides, we want them to survive so they can pay all the bills they owe from the world’s worst accidental oil spill.
I hope BP takes this opportunity to become the safest player in the Gulf, and to lead the oil industry – in cooperation with state and federal regulators – to go well beyond what is or will be required by the letter of the law. BOEMRE’s response has been downright disappointing, issuing new deepwater drilling permits that rely on old pre-2010 oil spill response plans that failed us miserably last summer, and continuing to place faith in a last line of defense – the blowout preventer – that is now recognized to be fundamentally unreliable.
BP could choose to voluntarily set a much higher bar for this industry by demonstrating to their shareholders and to regulators that they are determined to be the gold standard in safety — even if that means sacrificing some short-term profitability to invest in continuous long-term improvements in energy efficiency, drilling procedures, spill response, and spill remediation.