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Gull coated in heavy oil from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in 2010. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Monday marks a decade since the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, which claimed 11 lives, spilled roughly 3 million barrels of oil over months, and created ecological damage that lingers today.

Why it matters: It was the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, and prompted a major overhaul of offshore drilling oversight.

The big picture: The region and its wildlife still bear environmental wounds despite substantial recovery in the last decade, researchers say.

  • A study published last week in the journal Scientific Reports laid out the results of extensive fish sampling and found widespread evidence of oil exposure.
  • An in-depth Associated Press piece notes that some scientists see "remarkable recovery," but also reports: "Scientists who spent the decade studying the Deepwater Horizon spill still worry about its effects on dolphins, whales, sea turtles, small fish vital to the food chain, and ancient corals in the cold, dark depths."
  • A National Geographic story based on interviews with multiple researchers finds that species including deep-sea coral, common loons and spotted sea trout are "struggling" and have lower populations.
  • But others, including the Louisiana brown pelican, have shown "robust" recovery, they report. "Scientists say it’s still too early to tell definitively what the impact has been for longer-lived species such as dolphins, whales, and sea turtles," the story notes.

The state of play: Michael Bromwich, the blunt former Justice Department official who reshaped drilling regulation in the aftermath of BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster, is worried that safety isn't getting the attention it deserves 10 years after the crisis — and he's not alone.

What they're saying: Bromwich criticized the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement — one of the agencies he helped create — for changes to blowout preventer and well-control regulations that he and other critics called a big rollback.

  • In an interview with Axios, he also criticized the posture of current BSEE director Scott Angelle for saying that the agency is a "partner" to the oil-and-gas industry.
  • “These are not statements that ought to be coming from the industry’s chief regulator,” Bromwich said.

The other side: Angelle has defended the agency's oversight, and industry and Interior officials say the rule changes made the regulations smarter without compromising safety.

  • And, Debra Phillips of the trade association American Petroleum Institute tells the Washington Post that Trump administration changes to offshore oversight have "been mischaracterized as rollbacks."

Catch up fast: Bromwich joined the Interior Department in June of 2010, when oil was still gushing out of BP's ruptured well.

  • He oversaw reforms that broke leasing, safety and revenue collections into separate units, imposed safety mandates and set new regulations in motion.

Threat level: Bromwich said the federal government now has a stronger hand to ensure safety than it did before the disaster, even though he says the current administration is not focused enough on safety.

  • “Even as weakened, the well control rule provides additional basis for confidence that companies are required to take steps that lower the risk” of major new accidents, he said.
  • More broadly, he said “the agency has the tools now to be able to lower the risk of future disasters like Deepwater Horizon,” but also notes: “The real question is to what extent, how aggressively, are they being enforced.”
  • Bromwich and others also note the industry has taken steps since the spill on safety and response, such as the 2010 creation of Marine Well Containment Company, a nonprofit industry consortium designed to bolster response and control capacity for accidents at deepwater wells.

But, but, but: He's concerned that the collapse in oil prices will lead companies to pare resources for training and safety. That "could have unfortunate consequences down the road," he said.

  • His concerns are echoed more broadly by members of the bipartisan commission that probed the accident and spoke to the New York Times.
  • “We are slightly better prepared than we were ten years ago but nowhere near where we need to be,” Bob Graham, former Florida governor and senator who co-chaired the panel, told NYT.

Go deeper

“You blew it”: GOP activist turns on corporations over vaccine mandates

The chairman of the American Conservative Union said on "Axios on HBO" he accepts "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," but predicted Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022 — with greater than 50% odds Donald Trump runs in 2024.

The big picture: In a joint interview with his wife, Mercedes, Matt Schlapp also refused to share their vaccination status. And he told corporate America "you blew it" by embracing vaccine mandates and liberal social stances that have alienated GOP voters and politicians.

52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi expects “billionaire’s tax” to pay for Biden social spending

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday she expects the chamber to pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan by week’s end, and alternatives to corporate tax hikes and a “billionaires tax” will be used to finance President Biden’s promised expansion to the social safety net.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s comments come as House and Senate leaders try to wrap up a deal. What will get cut — and how the remainder will be paid — are linchpins to a final agreement.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
53 mins ago - Axios on HBO

FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried mystified by value of NFTs

Crypto exchange FTX, valued last week at $25 billion, recently launched an NFT marketplace by selling an image of the word "Test" for $270,000.

  • FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tells "Axios on HBO" that he doesn't quite understand the appeal, but adds that he doesn't personally appreciate many visual arts.