CEA: Oil Spill Commission Misses Key Opportunity with Release of Its Report

Holt: “This commission had an opportunity, and some might even say a mandate, to move the current energy debate past politics and toward a reasonable consensus” on safe offshore operations in the future. “Unfortunately, too much of the report issued today appears to fall outside those parameters.”

WASHINGTON – The White House-appointed Oil Spill Commission had a unique chance to chart a new course for responsible offshore energy development in the future, but with the release of its report today, appears to have come up short in that charge. That’s the message that Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) president David Holt delivered to policymakers and the press this afternoon upon reviewing the 398-page report released in Washington today.

“This commission had an opportunity, and some might even say a mandate, to move the current energy debate past politics and toward a reasonable consensus on the best and safest way to allow Americans continued access to the energy resources they own offshore,” said CEA president David Holt, who is based in Houston but traveled to Washington today to speak on the report. “Part of that mandate called on the commission to take a hard look at the facts, and produce a set of recommendations aimed at improving the way we access energy offshore – not for the purpose of shutting those activities down, but for the purpose of making them safer. Unfortunately, too much of the report issued today appears to fall outside those parameters.”

Although the report includes commonsense recommendations for setting aside spill-related funds for long-term restoration of the Gulf Coast, its wetlands, and its ecosystem, the document also strays into the political – at times reading more like a statement of national energy policy than a technical examination of the Macondo incident and its aftermath. Most notably, the report includes an entire section questioning whether offshore energy development can take place safely and responsibly in Alaska and the Arctic, minimizing the fact that such activities have been pursued safely for generations – and today remain a key contributor to America’s domestic energy supply and security. At its core, the report focuses on what went wrong last April; it does not discuss what steps industry has taken to further reduce the risk of such an event occurring in the future.

“The current slowdown in the issuance of offshore drilling permits and the reduced flow of North Slope energy from Alaska compromises our domestic energy security and puts energy-dependent industries such as trucking in a precarious position,” said Richard Moskowitz, vice president and regulatory affairs counsel for the American Trucking Associations, and chairman of CEA’s board. “Consumers should be very concerned that the price of oil crossed the $90 threshold in the month of January.  Absent a rational change in domestic energy policy, we are concerned that the price of oil will continue to climb and have a dramatic and negative effect on our already struggling economy.” 

Added Holt: “At a time when more than 14 million Americans are out of work, and nearly every state in the country is struggling under a budget outlook that presages severe cuts in essential services – or worse – there has perhaps never been a more important time to leverage America’s abundant natural resource base into jobs, revenues and security for the future. There’s probably never been a more obvious time as well.”

NOTE: In an editorial published this week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune characterized the commission’s early-release findings and related conclusions as “puzzling” and “hard to reconcile” given the actual “evidence in the report.” Added the Times-Pic: “Some critics are already asking whether the commission’s conclusion was influenced by the politics of the national debate over drilling.” Click here to access the piece.