Trump administration sued for rolling back Obama-era offshore oil drilling regulations

'This attempt to roll the dice with offshore safety not only puts workers and our coasts at risk, but violates the law'

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 11 June 2019 13:45
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The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010

Ten environmental groups are suing the administration of Donald Trump for its rollback of Obama-era offshore drilling protections, which were put in place to increase safety after the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

In the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the green groups charge that the White House altered offshore drilling regulations that required increased safety monitoring to ensure that another incident like that 2010 blast did not reoccur.

That explosion resulted in millions of gallons of oil being leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, and 11 worker deaths.

"These rollbacks are a step back to pre-Deepwater Horizon days, when the offshore oil industry largely policed itself to disastrous effect," Chris Eaton, an attorney for the group Earthjustice, said in a statement. "This attempt to roll the dice with offshore safety not only puts workers and our coasts at risk, but violates the law."

The regulations that the Trump administration is rolling back were put in place in 2011 in response to the 2010 explosion, which also spurred the creation of a new agency to enforce the rules. That agency is called the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and is underneath the umbrella of the Department of the Interior.

But the approach of the Trump administration has been to shift the burden of those watchdog duties to third-party inspectors, instead of that agency itself.

Critics say shifting those inspections away from the government will reduce public scrutiny, and essentially puts responsibility for maintenance back into the hands of the oil industry itself.

The regulations also reduce testing on safety equipment, and ends the requirement that companies keep teams onshore that monitor equipment readings for safety issues that workers at sea might not notice.

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In addition to Earthjustice, groups like the Natural Resources Defence Council, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife are involved in the lawsuit.

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