Rig-Inspection Program Unchanged

The more things change when it comes to oil regulation, the more they stay the same. More than seven months since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana, the federal agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling has made wholesale changes—from appointing new leadership to choosing a new name. Its inspection program, however, remains the same, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation. The 55 inspectors that the so-called watchdog has at its disposal have been rendered almost powerless by the sheer magnitude of the industry. With little or no practical experience in deep-water drilling, they are responsible for making sure that some 3,500 rigs pass muster. Though they have managed to reduce workplace injuries, they mainly find themselves checking hardware—even though the main sources of major accidents are usually human error.