Concerns oil drilling disasters could repeat


A presidential commission concluded that what happened in the Gulf was a result of technical and managerial issues over at BP. An expert spent the last year studying what happened in the Gulf and he says unless more changes are made, there is bound to be another drilling disaster.

The fire in the Gulf and the thick black smoke that came from it is an image that shocked the world one year ago. The blast that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig has come to be known as one of the worst environmental disasters in American history.

"'Who should shoulder that responsibility?' was probably one of the easiest questions I've ever been asked. It has to be BP," said UC Berkeley Professor Robert Bea, Ph.D.

The UC Berkeley civil and environmental engineering professor spent the past year analyzing what went wrong in the Gulf. He says BP had the technology to avoid the disaster, but executives ignored the warnings to keep costs down and until the culture in the drilling industry changes, Bea says the same thing could happen again.

"It was a recipe for disaster," said Bea.

It took 87 days to cap the leak, while more than four million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf. The damage devastated a region dependent on tourism and marine life.

"There were some minor things that could have been corrected that would have prevented the incident," said veteran oil rig captain John Konrad, via Skype from his home in Morro Bay.

Konrad says things as minor as recharging batteries on the rig could have prevented the disaster. Konrad worked for the Deepwater Horizon's owner, TransOcean. Konrad says he raised safety concerns, even to the former head of the U.S. Coast Guard, but they went ignored.

"I did an interview with Admiral Thad Allen a year before the explosion and pointed out a number of problems then and some of these problems continue," Konrad

A year later, the government has started issuing drilling permits in the Gulf. BP isn't drilling there... yet.

"I think it's a horrible disaster and an opportunity to learn, but we seem to be at this stage almost determined not to lean," said Bea.

BP just recently requested permission to begin drilling again in the Gulf and that would be in exchange for following stricter safety regulations. So far, of the $20 billion that BP set aside for a claim for residents that live in the affected Gulf area, only $3.8 billion has been handed out.

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