Trump Weakens Rules Meant to Prevent Next Deepwater Horizon Spill
Officials announced changes to the Well Control Rule on the Louisiana coast, not far from where the 2010 oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and poured around 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, The Washington Post reported.
The Trump administration today weakened crucial offshore drilling safety standards that were put in place after the… https://t.co/PCi1DrpLLl— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1556828227.0
"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," Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Director of Strategic Engagement Bob Deans said in a statement of the original rule. "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."
BSEE Finalizes Improved Blowout Preventer and Well Control Regulations https://t.co/uTGw0nlsKp https://t.co/HdyYJHgyap— BSEE (@BSEE)1556823895.0
The NRDC explained how the Trump's Department of Interior (DOI) was weakening that rule, which was finalized by the Obama administration in 2016:
The agency is walking back components of the well control rule, such as removing requirements for real-time backup monitoring by onshore experts and annual certification of the blowout preventer's integrity by an approved third-party expert. Blowout preventers will now be allowed to simply close, instead of achieving an effective seal, which mirrors standards set by the American Petroleum Institute. (A malfunction of a blowout preventer is what caused the 2010 disaster.) Together, the changes represent a favor to the oil industry and a threat to "workers, waters, and wildlife," Deans says.
In a statement Thursday, Interior Secretary David Berhnardt insisted the change was made with safety in mind.
"Today's final rule puts safety first, both public and environmental safety, in a common sense way," Bernhardt said, as The Washington Post reported. "Incorporating the best available science, best practices and technological innovations of the past decade, the rule eliminates unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protection offshore."
But officials at DOI division the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said the changes would also save the offshore oil and gas industry about a billion dollars over 10 years.
"Given David Bernhardt's close ties to his former clients and friends in the fossil fuel industry, it's no surprise that he's seeking to give them free rein to spoil our coasts and public waters and put workers in harm's way," Sierra Club Lands Protection Program Director Athan Manuel said in a statement. "These safeguards were put in place in response to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and with this latest favor for oil and gas companies Bernhardt is putting us at risk of a similar disaster."
The Deepwater Horizon spill had disastrous consequences for the environment and economy of the Gulf of Mexico, The Washington Post reported. Those included:
- $95 million in losses for the Gulf fishing industry just in 2010
- The deaths of one million seabirds
- The deaths of more than 150 whales and dolphins
The deregulation is part of President Donald Trump's overall push to expand offshore oil drilling and "energy dominance," The Huffington Post explained. It comes about a month after a judge blocked Trump's attempt to open up the Arctic ocean to drilling, leading the DOI to likely postpone plans to make more than 90 percent of coastal waters available for oil and gas leasing, NPR reported.
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By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for 2020, the second-warmest year the globe has seen since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-high annual temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were measured across parts of Europe, Asia, southern North America, South America, and across parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. No land or ocean areas were record cold for the year. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Figure 2. Total ocean heat content (OHC) in the top 2000 meters from 1958-2020. Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Sea surface temperature were approximately one degree Celsius below average over the past month, characteristic of moderate La Niña conditions. Tropical Tidbits
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