Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 14, 2010
Gulf oil disaster reveals gov't failure to be responsible
A New York Times investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has turned up a disturbing lack of controls and responsibility prior to the April 20 explosion that killed 11 people and set off a massive oil spill.
Not only was it unclear who was in charge on the Deepwater, but several regulatory agencies "granted exceptions to rules, allowed risks to accumulate and made a disaster more likely on the rig," according to The Times' June 6 report.
While only 50 of the 3,500 offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf are situated at more than 300 metres below the surface, the risks and challenges of deepwater drilling are much greater. Regulations, however, do not reflect those risks and challenges.
Moreover, not only are the regulations inadequate, but both the U.S. government and the companies involved routinely grant exceptions to those rules, The Times said. In just one example, the Deepwater Horizon project was approved without having undertaken the required environmental review process.
The list of exceptions is extensive and involved procedures and equipment that might well have prevented the disaster. Further, inspections by at least one government agency "usually consist of helicopter visits to offshore rigs to sift through company reports of self-administered tests."
Many moral issues are involved with the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. A major one has to do with enforcement of government and company regulations and policies.
Companies will often argue that regulations unnecessarily restrict their actions and serve only as barriers to economic development.
Economic development is a good thing. It provides people with jobs and often enables them to develop their creativity and contribute to the good of society.
But development is not an unqualified good. As numerous Church pronouncements over the past 40 years have emphasized, development must serve the person. When profitability becomes the main or sole purpose of development then human development is jeopardized.
In this case, the toll is enormous - 11 people dead, others injured and a people's way of life severely jeopardized. We do not yet know, for example, what the permanent effect will be on family-run fishing businesses in the southern U.S.
What we do know is that their way of life has been treated as of marginal importance in a world hell-bent on extracting every last drop of oil from the earth in order to fuel the unsustainable lifestyles of Western societies.
When something as inherently dangerous as deepwater drilling is undertaken - and we ought to question whether it should be undertaken at all - the least that should happen is that regulations are rigorously enforced to give top priority to the common good of humanity. Governments have at least that much of a responsibility.
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