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Interior Department's Michael Bromwich: We had "79 near misses, 79 almost-Deepwater Horizons" in thirteen years

03 Jun 2011  |   Emma Brown

Michael Bromwich, director for the Interior Bureau of Ocean Management, Regulation and Enforcement, responded Thursday with disbelief to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s criticism that that the Obama administration’s updated drilling safety standards are unnecessary and overly burdensome. 

Barbour believes that despite the recent oil spill which spewed thousands of barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, the current standards remain adequate. The Governor noted that out of the 31,000 oil wells drilled over 50 years, the Deepwater Horizon spill was the only major accident to occur. 

Bromwich countered that a lack of major accidents may have had more to do with luck than adequate safety standards. Noting that between 1996 and 2009, there were 79 recorded incidents in which a operators lost control of a well, Bromwich explained, “Another way to describe that is 79 near-misses, 79 almost-Deepwater Horizons.”

“To say that the risk is 1 in a million, or 1 in ‘x’ thousand of deepwater wells drilled is not accurate,” he continued. “We will never be able to reduce the risk to zero. We know that and you know that. But we have to work constructively to try to diminish those risks in a balanced way so that we don’t impose inappropriately high costs on industry and yet we do raise the bar on safety.” 

The National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released in January of this year a report that found that offshore drilling safety standards were inadequate and left states vulnerable to future accidents.

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