As families mourn the 11 workers thrown overboard in the worst oil rig disaster in decades and as the resulting spill continues to spread through the Gulf of Mexico, new questions are being raised about the training of the drill operators and about the oil company's commitment to safety.
Deepwater Horizon, the giant technically-advanced rig which exploded on April 20 and sank two days later, is leaking an estimated 42,000 gallons per day through a pipe about 5,000 feet below the surface. The spill has spread across 1,800 square miles -- an area larger than Rhode Island -- according to satellite images, oozing its way toward the Louisiana coast and posing a threat to wildlife, including a sperm whale spotted in the oil sheen.
Relatives of workers who are presumed dead claim that the oil behemoth BP and rig owner TransOcean violated "numerous statutes and regulations" issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a lawsuit filed by Natalie Roshto, whose husband Shane, a deck floor hand, was thrown overboard by the force of the explosion and whose body has not yet been located.]
The Minerals and Management Service of the Interior Department proposed taking a more proactive stance by requiring operators to have their safety program audited at least once every three years -- previously, the industry's self-managed safety program was voluntary for operators.
BP and TransOcean have also aggressively opposed new safety regulations proposed last year by a federal agency that oversees offshore drilling -- which were prompted by a study that found many accidents in the industry.
The cost of those extra audits? $4.5 million.
The cost to our environment of not conducting safety audits? Inestimable.