WASHINGTON – The Trump administration today is significantly weakening offshore drilling regulations known as the “well control rule.” In a symbolic gesture reflecting its overly familiar relationship with industry in these efforts, the Department of Interior is expected to make the announcement this afternoon from Port Fourchon, Louisiana, which is the base for Gulf offshore drilling operations and the very heart of the coastal area devastated by the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.
The following is a statement by Bob Deans, director of strategic engagement at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“The well control rule was one of the most important actions we took, as a nation, in response to the BP-style disaster at sea. The rule draws directly from lessons learned from that debacle. It creates tools to help reduce the risk of these dangerous industrial operations at sea. If the Trump administration’s final rule weakens these protections, as its proposed changes did, it will put our workers, waters and wildlife at needless risk. That’s irresponsible, reckless and wrong.”
The proposed rule included a number of problematic provisions. For example, it deleted the requirement in the original rule to have redundancy in monitoring by having onshore experts monitor real-time data. In addition, it weakened standards for blowout preventers, merely requiring that they “close,” instead of requiring that they “achieve an effective seal,” a lower standard that mirrors the standard of the American Petroleum Institute. In addition, it proposed to remove the requirements for an annual certification of the blowout preventer’s mechanical integrity to be done by an approved third-party expert.
The existing rule was issued following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon well blowout, the most disastrous oil spill in American history, which cost the lives of eleven oil rig workers and first responders, killed thousands of marine mammals and birds, and trillions of fish and oysters. The Gulf region from Florida to Texas lost $23 billion dollars in tourism-related income, and the area suffered environmental damage totaling in the billions. Weakening the current rule will make a repeat of this disaster more likely.
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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.