In a report released on April 17, a group of former BP oil-spill commissioners gave Congress low marks for failing to enact substantive reform to make offshore drilling safer.

Nearly two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Congress has yet to pass any legislation to improve safety on offshore drilling operations, said Oil Spill Commission Action, which is made up of former commissioners from President Obama’s national oil-spill panel, which disbanded in March 2011.

“Across the board, we are disappointed with Congress’s lack of action,” said Bob Graham, the president’s commission’s co-chairman. He said that apart from a bill to require 80% of the penalties paid by BP and other parties under the Clean Water Act to go toward Gulf Coast cleanup and restoration, which has passed the Senate but not the House, Congress has done little to mandate the types of reforms the commission recommended in its final report last year.

However, the commissioners noted that the Dept. of the Interior and the industry itself have been more proactive. “We are encouraged by the progress being made, particularly by the Dept. of the Interior and industry, in adopting our recommendations to improve safety and environmental protection," said William K. Reilly, co-chairman of the president’s commission.

For example, industry has set up two new corporations in the Gulf that have capping stacks ready for deployment if a well were to blow out. “When the Macondo well blew out, there were none,” Reilly said.

Meanwhile, the National Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council announced on April 18 that it had given the green light for eight restoration projects to begin in the Gulf. The $60 million in early restoration projects provide for marsh creation, coastal dune habitat improvements, near-shore artificial-reef creation and oyster cultch restoration.

The projects—two each in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida—comprise phase one of the restoration work, paid for by a
$1-billion fund set up by BP.

“These projects allow us to begin implementing restoration of Louisiana’s natural resources quickly, rather than waiting years for the completion of the full assessment,” says Louisiana trustee Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana. “But we continue to be focused on pursuing additional projects with BP. Nearly two years after the start of the oil spill, we hope that BP moves quickly to approve future restoration for the Gulf Coast.”

The trustees say they will work with BP to select the next group of proposed projects, which will then undergo an extensive public comment period. The trustees held 12 public meetings throughout the Gulf states and in Washington, D.C., in January and February 2012 to evaluate the phase-one projects.