Commission blames Deepwater Horizon spill on 'systemic problems'

Vessels work at the site of the Deepwater Horizon accident.

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JEREMY HOBSON: The Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred because of "a number of outright mistakes" that "combined to overwhelm the safeguards." Those are the words of the official government commission report on the spill. Its first chapter is out this morning and it warns that without a major change another accident could happen.

From Washington, Marketplace's Scott Tong reports.


SCOTT TONG: The reports tallies several sins on the BP well: drillers took shortcuts as they prepared to bring up oil four miles down. That created warning signs that were "not noticed." When the rig blew, a staff member pushed the emergency button to engage the last line of defense -- the blowout preventer. The button failed.

Commission co-chair William Reilly says he learned BP and its partners -- Halliburton and Transocean -- were all sinners.

WILLIAM REILLY: This is a bigger problem than one company. It's a systemic problem and needs to be addressed that way.

Another problem: government overseers.

REILLY: The govt regulators have been over matched here: they haven't had the resources, they haven't had the personnel. They haven't had the expertise, frankly, to oversee an industry -- the technology of which has just gotten beyond them.

The notion of "systemic problems" differs from the industry's take that BP is a lone bad apple. In fact, the oil and gas lobby wants the government to expand deepwater drilling. The commission's full report comes out next week.

In Washington I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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