The new head of the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling said he is not afraid to seek fines or jail time for companies and executives who break the law.
“I’m not going to say you can’t drill, but I’m not going to say you should drill and ignore safety and the environment,” Michael Bromwich told the Associated Press in an interview.
Bromwich was sworn in last month as director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement–formerly known as the Minerals Management Service. Long accused of lax oversight, the agency has been under scathing attack since the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The former head of the agency was pushed out in May.
“The risk of saying ‘off with their heads’ across the board is you risk losing a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise,” Bromwich said. “But the truth is if people don’t get the message that we are really stressing regulation and enforcement to an unprecedented degree they will have problems with me. There’s a reason why we renamed the agency and put regulation and enforcement in the name.”
Meanwhile, records released by the Coast Guard show that BP has exceeded Environmental Protection Agency limits for oil dispersant use on the Gulf almost daily since they were put in place in May, Mother Jones reports. Under the directive, BP was supposed to hold undersea use of dispersants to less than 15,000 gallons per day and “eliminate the surface application” unless granted an exemption. According to the records, the government’s on-scene coordinator, Coast Guard Admiral James Watson, has routinely granted BP’s requests to surpass the limits.
In one case, the Coast Guard granted BP 13,000 more gallons than it had requested.
In response to the article, the EPA issued a statement saying that “The goal of this directive was to rampdown dispersant use from peak usage, and dispersant use has dropped by nearly 70 percent, and the Coast Guard took these steps to ensure that BP prioritized skimming and burning and relied on surface application only as a last resort. That prioritization has happened.”