Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal


Leila Monroe


This Article chronicles the multiple reviews that were conducted into the BP oil spill, in an attempt to understand the flaws in government management and oversight that allowed this disaster to occur. It endeavors to distill the key recommendations produced by numerous reviewers related to improving DOI’s management and oversight of offshore oil and gas exploration and development activities. Although they are also critically important topics, each with identified opportunities for improvement, it is not within the scope of this Article to provide an in-depth discussion of industry culture and practice, technological failures, oil spill response, or spill restoration.

Part II of this Article discusses the troubled history of the Minerals Management Service under the DOI. Part III reviews the chronology of the BP Deepwater Horizon oversight structure reforms. Part IV examines necessary changes to address past failures in government regulation and oversight that contributed to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. With regard to reforming government management and oversight, four areas of change were identified by the multiple reports, investigations, and recommendations produced by an array of government agencies, task forces, panels, and experts examining the complex problems and necessary reform with DOI, MMS, and the regulations they administer. These multiple reviewers identified cross-cutting opportunities for deep, lasting improvements to U.S. oversight of offshore oil and gas activities.

This Article also examines actions that have been taken, as of the time of its writing (January 2011), by the Obama Administration and Congress to implement recommendations to improve government oversight of offshore oil and gas exploration and production.