Four years after the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and pumped 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA has lifted a ban that excluded the company from new federal contracts. S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, who was director of the Minerals Management Service at the time of the disaster and was forced out soon afterward, tells “Democracy Now!” on Monday that another catastrophe is a real possibility.

Host Amy Goodman asked Birnbaum to talk about the “blowouts or the offshore wells that have lost control several times just in the last year.” Birnbaum responded:

A few of these have been temporary losses of control where there was unexpected pressure coming up a well and the operator was able to get it under control fairly quickly. But there was at least one incident last year in July where a natural gas well, which was not spewing oil, luckily did not pollute the Gulf, but was emitting high-pressure natural gas, actually caught on fire, caught the rig on fire, and it took them two days to put it out and to stop the flow of gas from the well. That’s the kind of incident which a blowout preventer or a similar device should be able to stop, and it’s the kind of incident that the Department of the Interior should be trying to prevent through new regulation.

Hear more from Birnbaum below.

‘Democracy Now!’

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Wait, before you go…

If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface.  We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.

Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.

Support Truthdig