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Congress should study oil spill

May 11, 2010
The Daily Mining Gazette

With oil from a gigantic spill in the Gulf of Mexico already washing up on U.S. beaches, five congressional committees have announced they will hold hearings on the ecological disaster.

Some lawmakers plan to look into the economic and environmental impact of the spill, which began in an explosion and fire at an offshore drilling rig. More important will be investigations of what caused the failure - and why oil spilling out of the well was not contained quickly.

An oil slick covering about 2,000 square miles of the Gulf has resulted from leakage of 200,000 gallons of oil a day from the drilling rig, where 11 workers died on April 20. Some have compared the impact to that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

Precisely what went wrong? Investigators are looking into several questions, broken down to why the rig exploded in the first place and why oil containment safety provisions failed.

One key issue involves blowout valves at the well, designed to shut off the flow of oil in the event of damage to the rig. They failed completely. Why?

Another concern is whether the oil company, then the government, acted with appropriate speed once the spill began.

Coming on the heels of an announcement by President Barack Obama that he would allow more offshore drilling in some areas, the Gulf of Mexico disaster is troubling. Environmentalists have warned about the ecological danger of such drilling - and now, Americans have more reason to heed their criticisms. Congress should insist on learning what went wrong in the Gulf.



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