When regulators at the Minerals Management Service had concerns about the safety equipment for offshore oil rigs, the agency did not impose stronger regulations and instead allowed industry to police itself, according to two pieces in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal today. The agency has been scrutinized for its role in the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly for failing to follow up on concerns it had — several years before the BP incident — about equipment that should have stopped the spill but did not.
The fines that oil companies have paid for offshore drilling safety violations are dwarfed by their profits. Fines against BP have been the equivalent of a rounding error. From 1998 through 2007, BP paid less than $580,000 in penalties for its 12 safety violations. Last quarter, the British oil giant turned a profit of $5.6 billion.