Oil Spill Commission grades Congress D-plus

Just prior to the three-year anniversary of the BP oil disaster, the former members of the president’s oil leak commission again criticized Congress for inaction in legislatively making offshore drilling more safe.

The Oil Spill Commission Action — formerly known as President Barack Obama’s Oil Spill Commission — gave Congress a D-plus, which is an improvement from the D grade that it was given a year ago.

The group awarded the Obama administration a B grade, which was the same as last year, and the oil and gas industry received a B-minus — up from a C-plus last year.

The initial federal report by the commission, issued in February 2011, said BP ignored warning signs of problems on its doomed oil rig, failed to adequately oversee partners in the operation and fostered a chaotic management style that added to poor decisions prior to the blast.

The BP civil penalties trial in New Orleans is ongoing.

After the federal commission concluded its work, the seven commissioners established a new organization, Oil Spill Commission Action, to monitor progress in implementing the recommendations in the commission’s report.

The group is operating independently with funding from the Walton Family Foundation and other groups.

The BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded over its Macondo well in 2010, killing 11 men and resulting in a three-month discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The commission was co-chaired by former Democratic Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly, who held the post under former President George H.W. Bush.

Reilly complimented the Obama administration and the industry for ensuring there are now four oil well-capping systems located in the Gulf of Mexico and that there are more than a dozen positioned around the world. Three years ago, there were none.

The co-chairmen gave Congress credit for approving the RESTORE Act to send 80 percent of the oil leak civil penalties to the affected Gulf Coast states, but they remained critical of the lack of regulatory legislation.

“Because of actions taken by the (Obama) administration and by industry, we can say with confidence that offshore drilling is safer than it was three years ago,” Graham said in a prepared statement. “That doesn’t mean that there will not be another incident; this is a risky business. But we do see real progress.”