Trump Cites Safety Rules in Selling Radical Expansion of Offshore Drilling, Then Seeks to Gut the Rules

Greg Boles
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Partner at The Boles Firm | Experience Matters
In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Obama administration instituted sweeping safety regulations designed to minimize the risk of environmental disaster and death resulting from oil and gas well explosions. In 2010, the Deepwater disaster killed 11 workers and caused 200 million gallons of crude oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico. In 2016, the Obama administration finalized key environmental and worker protection rules, which the Trump administration cited in selling its controversial plan to open up 90% of the United States outer continental shelf to drilling. The administration is now seeking to gut those rules, claiming they increase the cost of drilling substantially without significantly enhancing worker or environmental safety. For example, the Well Control Rule requires additional inspection and maintenance of blowout preventers, which are designed to automatically seal a well to prevent uncontrolled release of oil and gas. Trump's proposed rule would loosen these requirements just two years after they were passed. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement‘s director, Scott Angelle, who has close ties to the industry, defends the proposed changes by claiming that it affected less than 18% of the rule's provisions. According to Chris D'Angelo of the Huffington Post, "10 state attorneys general argue that weakening the rule at the same time the Trump Administration is looking to radically expand offshore drilling ‘is analogous to taping over the mirrors and unbuckling one's seatbelt just before getting on the highway.'"
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