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Multidimensional Governance and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

62 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2011 Last revised: 27 Apr 2014

Hari M. Osofsky

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law

Date Written: February 12, 2011


This Article explores the governance challenges posed by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and proposes strategies for developing more inclusive, responsive institutions to help meet them. It begins by analyzing the incident through five core dimensions - vertical, horizontal, direction of hierarchy, cooperativeness, and public-private - to demonstrate the multi-level, multi-actor interactions taking place in offshore drilling and oil spill regulation. It then explains the ways in which the complex interactions in these dimensions translate into four core governance challenges: scientific and legal uncertainty, simultaneous overlap and fragmentation, the difficulties of balancing efficiency and inclusion, and inequality and resulting injustice. The Article next integrates eight different conceptual approaches to propose three core strategies for better multidimensional governance - hybridity, multiscalar inclusion, and responsiveness - and evaluates reform proposals made in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in light of them. It considers how citizens’ councils, regulatory burden-shifting, voluntary industry-based regulatory institutions, and independent scientific and technical review bodies could complement efforts to make the federal process more rigorous and adaptive. The Article concludes by discussing the broader applicability of its analysis of multidimensional governance challenges.

Keywords: BP, Oil Spill, Governance, Environment, Offshore Drilling, New Governance, Federalism, Adaptive Management, Pluralism, New Haven School, Regulation, Intersystemic Governance, Complexity

Suggested Citation

Osofsky, Hari M., Multidimensional Governance and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (February 12, 2011). Florida Law Review, Vol. 63, 2011; Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper 11-17. Available at SSRN:

Hari Osofsky (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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