The Trump administration on Thursday began dismantling safety rules created after the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates offshore oil and natural gas drilling, says its proposed changes to the rules are intended to reduce “unnecessary burden” on the energy industry and would save $228 million over 10 years without compromising safety.
“By reducing the regulatory burden on industry, we are encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production while maintaining a high bar for safety and environmental sustainability,” said BSEE Director Scott A. Angelle in a statement Thursday.
The bureau officially will publish its proposed rule changes Friday in the Federal Register, opening a 30-day public comment period.
Among the proposed changes, BSEE would eliminate a provision requiring third-party inspectors of certain safety equipment — such as a blowout preventer device — be certified by BSEE.
The blowout preventer device broke at the bottom of the sea in the Deepwater Horizon incident, spewing almost 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The 2010 spill, which killed 11 workers, was caused by BP's lack of maintenance of the blowout valve. The device is meant to prevent a surge in pressure from causing catastrophic explosions and spills.
The American Petroleum Institute has questioned the need for the undersea valve protection rules, arguing the industry's standards are adequate without duplicative regulations. API said in 2015 that although the rule follows the industry's lead of improved safety, "certain aspects of the rule, if not fixed, could have unintended consequences that increase the risk to people and the environment.” The safety bureau in its proposed changes also would reduce the threshold for which certified professional engineers review drawings of a driller’s safety equipment.
BSEE wants to mandate that process for only the “most critical documents.”
“This change would reduce the burden on operators by no longer requiring a [professional engineer] to certify as many diagrams and drawings,” the proposal says.
The Trump administration’s proposal does not change the Well Control Rule, a significant safeguard implemented after the spill that tightened controls on blowout preventers.
The administration is still reviewing that rule for potential changes.