The Department of the Interior (DOI) is revising a rule put in place after the largest marine oil spill in history happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, named after the oil rig at the center of the disaster, happened after a weak concrete core used to seal off a well ruptured, releasing millions of barrels of oil into the gulf. Natural gas released when the core first broke rose to the oil rig’s platform and ignited. The following explosion killed 11 workers and injured 17.
The Obama administration took action after the spill, crafting regulations to prevent a similar event happening in the future. The Trump administration announced in December 2017 it would revise parts of the regulations to reduce “unnecessary burdens.”
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), an agency under the DOI that regulates offshore oil and gas drilling, announced proposed revisions Friday to the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rules, one of several rules crafted under former President Barack Obama.
“BSEE’s approach to this regulatory reform was to make proposals that would carefully remove unnecessary burdens, while leaving critical safety provisions intact and, in fact, make drilling operations on the Outer Continental Shelf smarter and safer,” BSEE Director Scott Angelle said in a statement.
BSEE’s revisions affected roughly 17 percent of the rule’s 342 provisions. The modifications largely involve clarifying the intent of the regulations and codifying improved practices and techniques developed after the original rule was written. The revisions also allow a degree of flexibility to companies to continue to develop techniques and technology that can be shown to be as good or better for meeting standards laid out in the rule.
“As with all regulations, it is important that offshore safety regulations – including BSEE’s Well Control Rule – constantly evolve and are revised based upon new insights and developments in the offshore exploration and development field,” API Director of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito said in a statement.
“Instead of locking in regulatory provisions that may actually increase risk in operations, it is critical that revisions are made that enhance the regulatory framework to ensure updated, modern, and safe technologies, best practices, and operations,” Milito added.
When the revision process was first announced, environmentalists accused the Trump administration of placing industry interests over public welfare.
“Rolling back drilling safety standards while expanding offshore leasing is a recipe for disaster,” Center for Biological Diversity oceans program director Miyoko Sakashita said in a statement. “By tossing aside the lessons from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Trump is putting our coasts and wildlife at risk of more deadly oil spills. Reversing offshore safety rules isn’t just deregulation, it’s willful ignorance.”
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