The last thing oil companies should be complaining about is spending a few bucks to prevent their next deadly disaster.
The Trump administration’s war on the environment goes far beyond the elimination of rules designed to protect clean water and air. The oil rig safety rules implemented in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster are also on Trump’s deregulation list.
According to the New York Times,
The American Petroleum Institute and other trade groups wrote to the Trump administration, raising concerns over oil rig safety regulations implemented after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. In August, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement confirmed it was moving forward with the review. Mr. Trump had ordered a review of the rules earlier in the year.
The rule oil companies are fighting against has to do with Blowout Preventer systems and well control. In a letter to the Department of the Interior back in May, oil industry groups called the post-Deepwater Horizon safety regulations an “unnecessary burden” that is not “cost effective” for the industry.
In addition to seeking the elimination of Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) inspections, favoring third-party inspectors instead, they complained that the newer, “requirements that exceed the provisions of API Standard 53 (API 53), Blowout Prevention Equipment Systems for Drilling Wells are unnecessary…. we suggest deleting those requirements.”
Why are the post-Deepwater Horizon Blowout Preventer rules so important?
Like so many other safety regulations, these blowout prevention rules came after a disaster.
On April 20, 2010, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, located off the coast of Louisiana, exploded, killing eleven people instantly. The oil spill that followed dumped some 4.9 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico, killed thousands of marine mammals, and polluted the waters to such an extent that the Gulf fishing industry has still not completely recovered – and possibly never will. The cause of the disaster was found to be cost-saving measures used by BP in cementing the Blowout Preventer to the Macondo well, a lack of proper inspections, and ignoring warnings by monitoring equipment that the Blowout Preventer was faulty. Consequently, when the device failed, there was no way to stop the gushing oil from poisoning the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding coastlines. The oil spill was finally stopped some three months later via a relief well that had to be drilled nearby, which was then able to cut off the flow of oil from beneath the broken Blowout Preventer valve on the Macondo well.
In 2014, BP was charged by a U.S. District court with gross negligence and reckless conduct for their role in the Gulf oil spill, and ordered to pay $18.7 billion in fines.
However, fines can’t restore the extensive damage done to the environment and the lives lost in the BP oil spill. That meant preventing another Deepwater Horizon disaster through stronger regulations was the best option going forward. Despite all that, the Trump administration has been focused on moving in the opposite direction, as this new attempt to rollback blowout prevention rules demonstrates.
At the base of safety regulations are cost versus benefit arguments. When it comes to oil spills that have the potential to not only take lives, but destroy entire fishing industries, tourist economies, and wildlife, the arguments against safety are hollow. Oil companies are among the most profitable on the planet. The last thing they should be complaining about is spending a few bucks to prevent their next deadly disaster.
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