This Is Supposed to Make Us Feel Better?

Follow Kate Sheppard, Mac McClelland, and Julia Whitty on Twitter for the latest updates on the explosion.

With news of yet another oil rig exploding breaking this morning, an admission from the federal incident commander that the response to the BP disaster may have been bungled is not at all reassuring. The Press-Register reports:

In hindsight, if BP had removed the 5,000-foot-long tangle of riser pipe from its damaged Gulf well in the early days of the spill, a new blowout preventer or cap could have been installed, shutting down the well perhaps within weeks instead of months, according to both the federal incident commander and petroleum engineers.

“I think that is one thing we will look at,” retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said during a recent interview with the Press-Register editorial board. “Obviously what finally worked was cutting the riser pipe. … If we had elected to cut the riser pipe we might have been able to do it much quicker.”

The piece continues:

In the recent interview, Allen said the federal government and BP decided not to cut the riser off, instead adopting “the doctor’s policy of first do no harm.”

“The new BOP would have required cutting the riser off and going to an uncontrolled flow,” Allen said. “BP’s position, concurred by our science team, was to take the most low-risk option. We could have assumed a more aggressive course.”

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes. But thinking back on those weeks of fumbling after April 20—domes, top-hats, junk shots, and top-kills—it’s a bit alarming to learn that BP nixed what could have been the best, fastest solution. We know why, of course; the federal government was clearly no better prepared for this kind of worst-case scenario. But now that exploding rigs and other disasters are apparently commonplace, let’s hope lessons have been learned.


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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.