The Trump administration's cozy relationship with the oil industry continues, and oil companies are getting safety exemptions left and right.
Trump's Department of the Interior has been quietly handing out hundreds of waivers to offshore oil drillers, and its an environmental disaster waiting to happen.
Back in 2010, America saw the largest ocean oil spill in history when the Deepwater Horizon, a rig owned by BP, had a blowout preventer failure. Essentially, a piece of equipment that was supposed to shut off a high-pressure flow of oil and gas didn't do so. It was a spill so bad that BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines and plead guilty to 14 criminal charges.
Under Obama, the Department of the Interior created stronger rules for blowout preventers to try to prevent another Deepwater Horizon, which had resulted in 11 deaths and over 3 million barrels of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.
Under Trump, though, there seems to be no appetite for any sort of regulation, even one to stop large-scale ecological disasters. Instead, Interior has granted nearly 1700 exemptions to the Obama safety rules, and the bulk of those exemptions allow oil companies to ignore the stronger blowout preventer rules. Worse, the administration has the safety rules on the chopping block anyway, so soon companies won't even need the waivers.
This administration is entirely devoted to the kind of industry doublespeak spewed by Erik Milito, an American Petroleum Institute vice president:
It is important that it [the Obama-era rule] is revised based upon new insights and developments in the offshore exploration and development field to enhance the regulatory framework to ensure updated, modern, and safe technologies, best practices, and operations.
Amazing how regulatory frameworks are only "enhanced" when they are dismantled.
It isn't as if the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred 75 years ago and the industry could easily point to massive advancements in oil containment and safety technology in the ensuing decades. The spill itself was less than a decade ago, and the Obama-era regulations were only in effect for about the last six months of the previous administration.
Put another way, pretty much the very minute the regulations went into effect, the industry began complaining they were outdated. In the swampy Trump administration, they immediately found a willing audience for that argument.
These moves by the Department of Interior are entirely in keeping with the administration's other anti-science, anti-environment steps. Under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drastically decreased inspections of polluters and is using junk science to justify lowering emissions standards. And the administration's commitment to disbelieving climate change is legendary, going so far as to try to set up a climate change panel that has no climate change experts as members.
This administration is devoted to letting the oil industry call the shots, and the industry hates regulation. Because of that, it's only a matter of time before we see another Deepwater Horizon — or worse.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.