First page of the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement rule change, RIN 1014–AA37, 'Oil and Gas and Sulphur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf — Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems – Revisions'. Graphic: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

By Coral Davenport
27 September 2018

WASHINGTON (The New York Times) – The Trump administration has completed its plan to roll back major offshore-drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010 that killed 11 people and caused the worst oil spill in American history.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which was established after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico and regulates offshore oil and gas drilling, has finalized a proposal for loosening the regulations as part of President Trump’s efforts to ease restrictions on fossil fuel companies and encourage domestic energy production.

The rules “created potentially unduly burdensome requirements for oil and natural gas production operators on the Outer Continental Shelf, without meaningfully increasing safety of the workers or protection of the environment,” says the new 176-page rule, which is scheduled in the coming days to be published in the Federal Register, before becoming the administration’s final policy.

“This rule supports the administration’s objective of facilitating energy dominance by encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production and reducing unnecessary burdens on stakeholders, while ensuring safety and environmental protection,” the new rule says.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Among the changes, the new rule removes a requirement for independent verification of safety measures and equipment used on offshore platforms.

It also removes a requirement that oil companies design their equipment to function in “most extreme” scenarios involving weather, high heat, strong winds, or high pressure from within the undersea oil wells, which was a key factor in the deadly 2010 blowout.

And it removes a requirement that professional engineers certify the safety of the design of some pieces of offshore drilling equipment for new wells.

The new rule appears to reflect many of the requests made by the oil industry, including the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies on behalf of oil companies. In its public comments on the proposal, the group praised the plan, saying it would further the goal of seeing that “exploration and development is promoted and not unnecessarily delayed or inhibited.” […]

Environmentalists decried the final rule change.

“These rollbacks allow offshore oil companies to self-police and prioritize industry profits over safety,” said Diane Hoskins, the campaign director for offshore drilling at Oceana, an advocacy group. “This is a slap in the face to coastal communities and marine life that are most at risk from devastating oil spills.” [more]

Washington Rolls Back Safety Rules Inspired by Deepwater Horizon Disaster

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