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Seeking Answers after BP Oil Spill

By Jason Beahm on May 11, 2010 10:03 AM

As the shock of the gulf oil spill disaster begins to pass, questions are beginning to circulate regarding who is responsible. In particular, who is at fault, and how can future accidents be prevented

As we reported, lawsuits have already been filed and more are expected to come. For the damage done, include the death of 11 workers, the courts will analyze responsibility and award damages, though it will take a long time. In the meantime, the most likely answers may come from a Coast Guard investigation.  

Matthew L. Wald of the New York Times reports that answers could emerge from the Coast Guard as to how future accidents can be prevented. The Coast Guard will be the main investigative body of the oil spill disaster, and will likely form a Board of Inquiry. They will examine the cause of the accident from a holistic perspective, and try to determine what went wrong. 

They will likely be joined by the Minerals Management Service, an agency with experience with investigations, though usually as a target, according to the Times. "The overarching purpose is to prevent a recurrence, not to affix blame or liability," said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher T. O'Neil, a spokesman for the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard investigation will release a report with a determination as to the cause of the oil spill disaster, but it cannot be used in civil lawsuits. 

Ben Casselman of The Wall Street Journal published an article on May 10, raising doubts about the quality and performance of Transocean, the owner of the rig that exploded.

Nearly three of every four incidents that triggered federal investigations into safety and other problems on deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico since 2008 have been on rigs operated by Transocean, according to an analysis of federal data. Transocean defended its safety record but didn't dispute the Journal's analysis.

House Democrats Lois Capps and Edward J. Markey expressed an interest in creating a "blue ribbon" commission to analyze the spill. Capps stated, "This disaster will be all the more tragic if we fail to learn from it.''

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