Congressmen Investigate Gulf Emergency Response Plans

With oil still gushing into the Gulf and the ability of BP to respond to the environmental devastation it has unleashed in question, congressional investigators are now taking a closer look at the company’s emergency response plans. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) have requested information from four companies that provided services or consultation for emergency response to BP and rig owner Transocean.

The congressmen sent letters to the heads of the National Response Corporation and the Marine Spill Response Corporation, two companies that had service agreements with BP. They also sent inquiries to the Marine Preservation Association, which funds the Marine Spill Response Corporation, and the O’Brien’s Response Management Inc., which served as a consultant on emergency response issues to both BP and Transocean. The congressmen request all information related to the companies’ response plans for an emergency at the Macondo well site, correspondence with the companies, and “all documents relating to failure to control an oil well on the seabed.”

More attention is being paid to how much, if at all, these companies paid to emergency response planning. Clearly not enough, as we’re seeing very clearly in the Gulf. Numerous attempts to stop the well have failed, and the company has been unable to control or contain the oil gushing into the ocean. On paper, the company’s plan might be funny if the company’s failure to anticipate this kind of situation wasn’t so tragic.

A Senate committee has also asked the Department of Justice to look into whether BP made false claims about its ability to respond to a disaster in plans submitted to the government. The DOJ says it is “examining the full range of affirmative legal options that may be available to the United States” in dealing with the companies found to be at fault in the Gulf.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.