Oil Spill Causation and the Deepwater Horizon Spill



The April 20, 2010, BP Deepwater Horizon blowout riveted citizen and elected officials' attention on coastal oil spills in ways not seen since the ill-fated 1989 Exxon Valdez crisis. A commonly voiced lament included why was the tragedy not prevented? Why the seemingly poor safety practices and who is to blame? Could a spill of such catastrophic proportion happen elsewhere in the future? Applying a spill prevention causation framework developed through the examination of other major near-shore incidents over a 23-year period, the author finds Deepwater Horizon exhibited a pattern of shortcomings evident in these other spills. These shortcomings are rooted in policy imperfections, a weak regulatory regime, organizational deviance in lieu of integrity, and interorganizational structure deficiencies.