In 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig sent millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The accident was the single largest oil spill in the country’s history, an epic environmental disaster, and a black-eye for British Petroleum, the company responsible for the rig and the clean-up of the spill.
Now, President Trump plans to reverse safeguards put in place by the Obama administration after the spill, safeguards meant to prevent future disasters like this one. The regulations only went into effect in 2016, but the strict rules have been judged by many, including the president, as too harsh on the oil industry.
“The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) will revise the production safety systems rule on Friday,” Popular Mechanics notes, “and will likely do the same to the well control rule in the coming weeks.”
“The production safety systems rule governs a wide range of different processes, but the well control rule is specifically related to fixing the problem that caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” PM writes. “The well control rule sets regulations for blowout preventers, which are specialized valves designed to relieve pressure in worst-case scenarios—they are the so-called ‘last line of defense’.”
“It’s time for a paradigm shift” BSEE Director Scott Angelle said in a statement. “There was an assumption made previously that only more rules would increase safety, but ultimately it is not an either/or proposition. We can actually increase domestic energy production and increase safety and environmental protection.”
“Safety experts in the offshore oil and gas industry now have the opportunity to comment on this important regulation,” Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, wrote in a statement. “This ‘second bite at the apple’ provides an opportunity for further dialogue, discussion and debate to assure the Nation’s offshore energy resources are developed safely and expeditiously.”
The accident on the Deepwater Horizon began when the blowout preventer failed. The pressure inside built, and there was a blowout. Eleven men died in the fire that engulfed the rig.
The Obama era rules were designed to ensure that owners provided more scrutiny and control over their equipment. While lobbyists contend that the controls are expensive and hinder development, critics of the new move claim that the protection of human life and the preservation of the environment are worth the extra time and expense.