BP is petitioning U.S. regulators to continue drilling in the Gulf of Mexico less than a year after the massive oil spill that killed 11 workers and caused massive environmental damage. The deal would be that BP would be able to resume pre-existing drilling operations in the Gulf in exchange for following stricter safety regulations. There would be no new drilling. An agreement could be coming in the next month, although there’s been no confirmation yet.
Well, it’s going to happen at some point, right? We couldn’t reasonably expect BP to say to itself, “You know what, let’s not even go there. Let’s dissolve the company and never drill for oil again, because we’re assholes. Does everyone have their hair shirts on?” Plus Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BHP Billiton have all been allowed to continue drilling in the Gulf, along with Royal Dutch Shell. And Obama’s come out in support of increasing domestic oil production so as not to depend so much on foreign oil — meaning the government is going to want production in the Gulf to return to pre-spill levels. Meaning they’ll have to let BP back in sooner or later.
That said, the Justice Department did just say it’s considering bringing a number of charges against the company, including manslaughter for the deaths of the workers killed by the explosion. Also, the memory of the explosion and spill is fresh and the aftermath is still being dealt with, as it only happened eleven months ago; allowing BP to get back to business so soon is not a good look.
As the Times puts it, “Allowing BP to resume operations in the gulf would send a mixed message — that the administration was trying to increase the safety of offshore drilling and punish bad actors, while at the same time answering critics in Congress and the oil industry who say the administration is choking off production and driving up energy prices.” Exactly. there’s really no right answer here. All of it looks pretty bad.