US oil spill panel says new safety culture needed

THE WHITE House oil spill commission yesterday challenged offshore drillers to boost safety standards, detailing proposals for the creation of an independent, self-regulating industry group and reformed government oversight.

Created in the aftermath of the BP drilling accident in the Gulf of Mexico, the commission said the entire offshore oil industry needed to increase its focus on safety and such an industry group could hold firms accountable.

“The oil and gas industry needs to embrace a new safety culture,” commission co-chair Bill Reilly said at the start of a two-day meeting to help prepare the panel’s final report.

Reilly said a lack of resources had plagued the government’s offshore drilling regulator for years, which he said justified the Obama administration’s decision to delay expansion of offshore drilling to areas off the Atlantic coast and in the eastern Gulf.

“The industry is upset about it, but one has to ask how a decision could ever have been made otherwise, given the poor state of the agency itself,” Reilly said. The panel is considering pushing for the creation of a self-regulating safety organisation for offshore drilling.