NEW ORLEANS—The Trump administration has rolled back parts of the landmark Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule that was enacted to significantly reduce the risk of another catastrophic oil spill like the 2010 BP drilling disaster.
These rules were put into place in 2016 after 6 years of independent studies looked at ways to prevent another drilling disaster like BP’s, where operators lost control of the well causing an enormous explosion that killed 11 offshore workers and spilled 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The regulations help ensure drillers are better prepared and able to respond to unexpected drilling events, and that cutting-edge technology is there as a backup if something does go wrong.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is excusing the oil and gas industry from adopting necessary safety measures and equipment designed to avoid some of the same mistakes that led to the BP drilling disaster. Data recently released by Politico shows that since the passage of the Well Control Rule in 2016, BSEE has issued nearly 1,700 waivers to oil companies. Nonetheless, in an effort to address industry complaints about increased costs associated with this rule, BSEE has now rolled back portions of the rule: weakening real-time monitoring of offshore operations, and watering down testing requirements for critical safety devices like blowout preventers.
While the final rule has not been published in the federal register for the public to access, Scott Angelle, Director of BSEE, is hosting a tour de force of public relations today in anticipation of the final rule change. According to Angelle, 68 of the 342 provisions in the Well Control Rule are going to be revised.
As this Administration looks to open more than 90% of America’s offshore waters to drilling, they are actively loosening safety standards that many fear will put most of America’s coastal waters at risk.
“This administration is actively ignoring the findings of independent experts to satisfy their friends in the oil industry,” said Cyn Sarthou, executive director of Healthy Gulf (formerly Gulf Restoration Network). “We simply cannot let Big Oil call the shots. We saw how prioritizing oil industry profits by relaxing regulations and reducing oversight led up to BP spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”
Sarthou says these moves will take us back to the risky pre-BP disaster days, putting Gulf communities, economies and the environment in harm’s way, and expose offshore oil and gas workers to higher levels of risk.