In Oil Drilling Reform, A Call For Science And Safety The group investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill called on the industry and government regulators to focus on science to help guide decisions. They also recommended increased scientific research in the Arctic Ocean, potentially the next frontier for offshore oil exploration.
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In Oil Drilling Reform, A Call For Science And Safety

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In Oil Drilling Reform, A Call For Science And Safety

In Oil Drilling Reform, A Call For Science And Safety

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

The federal commission that examined last year's BP oil spill has issued its final report and it's full of recommendations for the offshore oil and gas industry. Some call on the industry to change its ways, others urged the government to take additional steps. One recurring theme is that everyone in this business needs to apply more brainpower. NPR's Richard Harris reports.

RICHARD HARRIS: It's true that no amount of planning and clear thinking can reduce the risk of an accident to zero, but at yesterday's news conference unveiling the commission's final recommendations, co-chairman Bob Graham said there's no doubt we can do better.

M: It's not asking too much that our approach in the United States be at least equivalent of the best practices in the world. They are not that today and sadly the United States has one of the lesser records in terms of the safety of its offshore drilling practices.

HARRIS: The commission found one reason for that is that federal regulators have been focused on checking off boxes on checklists instead of applying the kind of brainpower it should have been.

M: Science has not been given a sufficient seat at the table. Actually, I think that is a considerable understatement - it has been virtually shut out.

HARRIS: That shortcoming was highlighted in all sorts of ways during the deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico last April. Bill Reilly is the commission's other co-chairman.

M: The early response to that spill is evidence of the degree of un-preparation, and this commission is critical, even harsh, about some of the faulting early efforts to get a grip on the problem, to identify the flow rate, to contain the blowing well.

HARRIS: And the commission singled out the need for much better scientific research up in the Arctic Ocean, which is potentially the next frontier for offshore oil exploration. Commission member Fran Ulmer says not only research, but much better preparation is needed in that punishing and fragile environment.

M: For us to be able to move forward, whether it's with oil and gas development or any other development, we need to be prepared as a nation. And a number of studies have indicated that the Coast Guard does not have adequate capability to be able to respond appropriately in the Arctic.

HARRIS: Marilyn Heiman at the Pew Environment Group doesn't go that far, but she praises the commission's call for a more thorough assessment of drilling in the Arctic.

M: We need to have better response planning and preparedness in place to protect the Arctic ecosystem as well as the shoreline.

HARRIS: Richard Harris, NPR News.

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