Monday, May 17, 2010

govt in theory vs. practice: regulation of the oil rig under Bush vs. Obama

From the AP's Justin Pritchard (hat tip: Conservative Edge)...

The federal agency responsible for ensuring that the Deepwater Horizon was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that the rig be inspected at least once per month, an Associated Press investigation shows.

In fact, the agency's inspection frequency...fell dramatically over the past five years, according to federal Minerals Management records. The rig blew up April 20, killing 11 people before sinking and triggering a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico....

A summary of the inspection history that the MMS officials provided AP said the Deepwater Horizon received six "incidents of noncompliance" — the agency's term for citations.

The most serious occurred July 16, 2002, when the rig was shut down because required pressure tests had not been conducted on parts of the rig's blowout preventer — the device that was supposed to stop oil from gushing out if drilling operations experienced problems.

That citation was "major," said Arnold, who characterized the overall safety record related by MMS as strong....

Whatever the correct citation total — five or six — the Deepwater Horizon's record was exemplary, according to MMS officials, who said the rig was never on inspectors' informal "watch list" for problem rigs. In fact, last year MMS awarded the rig an award for its safety history.

Of course, regulators are much more a part of the bureaucracy than an administration. But it's amusing to see regulators in the Bush administration give warnings while those in the Obama administration gave awards.


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