Jane Van Ryan
Posted November 10, 2010
The presidential commission investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident wrapped up the second day of its two-day hearing in Washington yesterday. At the same time, a federal judge in New Orleans was holding a hearing on the administration's deepwater drilling moratorium. Here's a compilation of the latest news as reported by several publications:
- While it's known that the Deepwater Horizon explosion was caused by a surge of gas that rose through the wellbore, the causes remain under investigation and the commission has not yet assessed blame. The lead investigator indicated that the individuals drilling the well "missed signals" but did not base consciously base their decisions on saving money rather than safety.
- Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans held a closed-door conference about Ensco Offshore's suit challenging the administration's deepwater drilling moratorium. Although the moratorium was lifted Oct. 12, no drilling permits have been issued. According to a published report, the judge told reporters that "settlement possibilities" were discussed during the meeting. In an earlier ruling, Judge Feldman struck down the Interior Department's new drilling safety rules. Interior says it is replacing the rules with new guidelines.
- Consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers reports that the now-lifted moratorium continues to have an impact on investments in the Gulf. Michael Collier of PWC's energy practice told Platts that "we're seeing capital budgets being set for 2011 that assume very low activity." He adds, "Companies are actively working on the decision to either leave the Gulf or ride out the storm."
- White House energy czar Carol Browner's office edited an Interior Department report that ultimately suggested outside scientists and engineers endorsed the deepwater drilling ban. The scientists and engineers have said they were consulted on offshore safety but did not endorse the moratorium.
It will be a long time before the Deepwater Horizon tragedy is no longer in the headlines. On January 12, the presidential commission is expected to issue its final report on the causes of the accident; on March 27, the joint Coast Guard and Interior Department will release the findings of its probe; and Judge Feldman has scheduled a bench trial on the remaining issues from the moratorium lawsuit on July 25, 2011. Furthermore, litigation involving damage claims could last for several years.
In the meantime, the cleanup along the Gulf Coast continues. In a briefing held today, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that more than 9,300 people are still working on the oil spill response.
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