Series of failures led to massive oil blowout

The first firm evidence of what likely caused the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil blowout — a devastating sequence of equipment failures — drives home a central unsettling point about America’s oil industry: key safety features at tens of thousands of U.S. offshore rigs are barely regulated.

Wednesday’s hearings by congressional and administration panels — in Washington and in Louisiana — laid out a checklist of unseen breakdowns on largely unregulated aspects of well safety that appear to have contributed to the April 20 blowout: a leaky cement job, a loose hydraulic fitting, a dead battery.

The trail of problems highlights the reality that, even as the U.S. does more deepwater offshore drilling in a quest for domestic oil, some key safety components are left almost entirely to the discretion of the companies doing the work.

It remains unclear what, if anything, Congress or the Obama administration may do to address these regulatory deficiencies.

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