Offshore drilling safety protections rollback by Trump administration heightens risk of oil disaster

politics policy

Credit: wakila

The Trump administration is set to approve changes to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s “well control rule.”

That safeguard, implemented three years ago following recommendations from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, included various measures to prevent a major well blowout similar to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that ravaged the Gulf coast from Texas to Florida.

Earthjustice, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Wilderness Society offered the following statement in response:

“The well control rule was one of the most important actions we took, as a nation, in response to the BP-style disaster at sea.  The rule draws directly from lessons learned from that debacle.  It creates tools to help reduce the risk of these dangerous industrial operations at sea.  If the Trump administration’s final rule weakens these protections, as its proposed changes did, it will put our workers, waters and wildlife at needless risk.  That’s irresponsible, reckless and wrong.”

The proposed rule included a number of problematic provisions.  For example, it deleted the requirement in the original rule to have redundancy in monitoring by having onshore experts monitor real-time data.  In addition, it weakened standards for blowout preventers, merely requiring that they “close,” instead of requiring that they “achieve an effective seal,” a lower standard that mirrors the standard of the American Petroleum Institute.  In addition, it proposed to remove the requirements for an annual certification of the blowout preventer’s mechanical integrity to be done by an approved third-party expert.

The existing rule was issued following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon well blowout, the most disastrous oil spill in American history, which cost the lives of eleven oil rig workers and first responders, killed thousands of marine mammals and birds, and trillions of fish and oysters. The Gulf region from Florida to Texas lost $23 billion dollars in tourism-related income, and the area suffered environmental damage totaling in the billions.  Weakening the current rule will make a repeat of this disaster more likely.

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