BP National Commission Endorses CLEAR Act Safety Principles

Jan 11, 2011

Washington, D.C. – The independent commission investigating the BP oil rig explosion today released its final recommendations, which are consistent with nearly all of the safety provisions included in landmark energy legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and passed by the House of Representatives last summer.

“In its final report, the Commission makes abundantly clear that this tragic explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is indeed a game changer in the way we manage America’s oil and gas resources,” said Rahall, Democratic leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  “Congress must reform the way Big Oil does business to prevent another disaster from occurring.  This catastrophe not only killed workers, wildlife, and wetlands, but it has also had a devastating effect on the economy of the Gulf.”

Rahall was the original sponsor of the “Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act” (H.R. 3534), which would have directly responded to the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, increased oil rig safety to prevent the next oil spill and protect workers, cracked down on ethical lapses, required businesses to be responsible for their actions, and reduced the federal deficit by $5.3 billion over the next five years.  The House passed H.R. 3534 by a vote of 209 to 193 in July 2010, but Senate Republicans blocked the bill in the last Congress.

“Despite the CLEAR Act including nearly all of the safety recommendations by the commission, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to reject the bill last year and instead chose to side with Big Oil,” said Rahall.

Below are recommendations by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and key provisions in the CLEAR Act:

Comparison of Commission Recommendations and the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act


Specific provisions:

Commission Recommendations


Strong new safety standards for offshore drilling, including reviews to ensure that U.S. safety and environmental protection regulations are at least as rigorous as other developed nations.

Separate the former Minerals Management Service into three agencies, with one agency being an independent agency having authority to oversee all aspects of offshore drilling safety.

More stringent requirements for blowout preventers and well designs.

Require that offshore operators develop “safety cases” as part of exploration and production plans.

Audits of safety management plans.

Conduct research to “develop safer systems, equipment, and practices to prevent failures of both design and equipment in the future.”

Develop more detailed requirements for incident reporting and data concerning offshore incidents and near misses.

Provide whistleblower protection for offshore workers.

Ensure that companies bidding on leases demonstrate the ability to contain a worst-case spill and have “a record of safe, environmentally responsible operation.”

Extend the 30-day deadline for approval of exploration plans.

Create a multiagency research program to “systematically collect critical scientific data, fill research gaps, and provide comprehensive, ecosystem-based scientific reviews of OCS areas that are currently or will likely be open for oil and gas leasing.”

Require broader use of “worst-case scenarios” in doing environmental reviews, and in the procedures and standards for responding under the National Contingency Plan.

Require operators to plan for the potential of a blowout, and demonstrate that they will be able to contain one if necessary.

Specific provisions:

Commission Recommendations


Significantly increase the liability limits and financial responsibility requirements on offshore facilities, so that responsible parties will cover the oil pollution cleanup costs and damages caused by spills they create.

Require all drilling rigs off U.S. coasts to fully adhere to U.S. safety standards.

Establish a joint State-Federal Gulf of Mexico Restoration program to coordinate the efforts to return the Gulf to health following the Deepwater Horizon disaster and dedicate Clean Water Act penalties to that effort.

Establish new procedures for the approval and use of chemical dispersants to ensure their safety to human health, water quality and the environment.

Reduce the environmental risk from oil and gas activities by strengthening science and interagency consultations in the decision making process.

Require owners and operators of facilities and vessels engaged in oil-related activities to submit oil spill response plans for Federal review, approval, and periodic inspection, bolster State and local involvement, and make response plans publicly available.

Establish long-term coordinated federal and state marine spatial planning efforts and require ocean observation instruments to be deployed on production platforms.

Ensure that Federal agencies develop and maintain operational capacity and expertise to oversee all aspects of offshore drilling safety (operational and occupational) as well as the structural and operational integrity of all offshore energy production facilities.

Ensure that Federal agencies develop and maintain expertise to act as a first-responder.