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Published: Wednesday, 4/13/2011

Drilling doubt

BP is pushing to resume deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, despite its responsibility for the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The Obama Administration need not, and should not, rush into a decision.

The White House wants to avoid a drop in oil production in the gulf after a nearly year-long moratorium on deep-water drilling. BP, the biggest oil producer in the region, reportedly is talking with the Interior Department about restarting several wells.

One year ago next Wednesday, the Deepwater Horizon rig that BP leased for an exploration well exploded. The blowout killed 11 workers and triggered an oil spill that gushed for 87 days.

BP still is paying costs related to the catastrophe, including expenses for cleanup and civil and criminal investigations. Critics say BP's corporate culture has not improved enough to earn the company the right to return to the gulf.

The owner and operator of the Deepwater rig, Transocean, seems oblivious to its notorious recent history. Regulatory filings show the company gave bonuses to its top executives for recording what it called its best year ever for safety performance, "notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico."

The head of the presidential commission investigating the gulf spill, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator William Reilly, says Transocean "just doesn't get it."

The commission found that lax standards contributed to the massive offshore spill that dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil. Yet BP apparently hopes to resume drilling in the gulf as early as July, probably using some of the same service companies it did a year ago.

The company pledges to adhere to stricter safety and rules. But before the Obama Administration issues a permit, BP not only must acknowledge how far below the previous safety bar it fell, but also show how its containment, equipment, and response capabilities will enable it to get over a now-higher bar.


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