Oil Spill Co-Chair Praises Industry’s Response, Asks For Safety Organization

HOUSTON (Dow Jones)–William Reilly, co-chair of the presidential panel tasked with investigating causes of the BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) oil spill, on Tuesday called the oil and gas industry’s response to the disaster “remarkable and reassuring.”

Speaking at the IHS CERA energy conference in Houston, Reilly, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who oversaw the cleanup of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, heaped praise on a pair of spill containment systems developed after the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April, unleashing the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

In issuing the first deep-water drilling permit since the April 20, 2010, disaster, federal regulators last week cited separate spill containment systems developed by a consortium of major oil companies and Houston-based Helix Energy Solutions Group Inc. (HLX), whose equipment was used to stanch the flow of BP’s runaway well.

“From where I sit, the major obstacles to drill have been removed,” Reilly said.

Still, Reilly urged the industry to create an independent safety organization and push U.S. lawmakers to better fund offshore regulators. Industry executives are expected to meet and decide on the panel’s safety organization proposal on March 15, Reilly said.

Reilly also said talks were planned with Mexican leaders to discuss a treaty over deep-water Gulf of Mexico drilling safety. He said Cuba should also be party to any resulting pacts “to the extent possible.”

-By Ryan Dezember, Dow Jones Newswires

-By Ryan Dezember, Dow Jones Newswires

Pictured: Helix’s Producer 1 courtesy Helix