WASHINGTON (AP) -- The oil industry, Congress and the Obama administration need to do more to reduce the chances of another large-scale oil spill, a presidential panel investigating the BP well blowout concluded Tuesday.
The seven-member panel unanimously endorsed 15 separate recommendations in the wake of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Many of the proposals will require action by Congress, but some could be done through rulemaking, primarily at the Interior Department, commissioners said.
The panel calls for increasing budgets and training for the federal agency that regulates offshore drilling; boosting the liability cap for damages when companies drill offshore; dedicating 80 percent of fines and penalties from the BP spill to restoration of the Gulf; and lending more weight to scientific opinions by other federal scientists in decisions about drilling.
"It is our government's responsibility that exploration and extraction occur in ways that are beneficial to the country," Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham said. "Drilling offshore is a privilege to be earned, not a right to be exercised by private corporations."
If the recommendations are not carried out, "the probability of another failure will be dramatically greater," Graham said.
The panel said Congress should draft legislation to create within the Interior Department an independent safety agency and a separate environmental office to evaluate the risks of oil drilling to natural resources. Such a change would not require any additional funding.
The panel also called for an industry-led safety institute, similar to the one created by nuclear power producers after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.
New drilling proposals also will have to undergo more thorough environmental reviews, and meet new safety standards that apply to all deep-water operations.