Sen. Bill Nelson on rollback of offshore drilling safety rule

Apr 27 • 172 Views • View Comments

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The Trump administration today announced a new proposal to roll back several key offshore drilling safety regulations that the Obama administration put in place after the 2010 BP oil spill.

The Department of the Interior’s proposal would rollback significant portions of the “Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule” that was finalized and put in place in 2016 to address key safety recommendations made after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The “well control” rule includes several safety regulations that are now in place to help prevent another massive oil spill from occurring such as: increased design and maintenance standards for blowout preventers, requiring real-time monitoring of deep-water wells and requiring drillers to have a mechanism to properly cutoff a drill pipe if necessary.

Following is a comment from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who filed legislation last week to make the “well control” rule law and prevent the administration from rolling it back:  

“This administration wants to turn a blind eye to history just to help their friends in the oil industry,” Nelson said. “We can’t let that happen. These rules were put in place to prevent another massive oil spill off our coasts. We can’t allow this new administration to take us backwards in time and, once again, expose Florida’s beautiful beaches and  tourism-based economy to such an unnecessary risk.”

A copy of the legislation Nelson filed to prevent the rule from being rolled back is available here.

Background article on today’s announcement:

Rules Established After Deepwater Horizon Disaster Face Revisions

By Ted Mann and Tim Puko
Published: April 27, 2018

Federal regulators next week will unveil proposed changes to a major rule passed in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which the Trump administration says it can revise to be less of a burden on offshore oil drillers without compromising safety.

The existing rule—six years in the making and known as the “well-control rule”—was completed in the final year of President Barack Obama’s second term, and governs everything from the use of blowout preventers like the device that failed in the Deepwater Horizon spill, to the amount of pressure drillers must maintain to avoid accidents.

But the rule, the broadest of several completed after the 2010 spill, has been a point of contention with the oil-and-gas industry, which objects to some of the costs of complying with its safety measures and what the industry says is an overly prescriptive approach by the government to regulating oil production.

Among the changes in the proposed rule, which is to be sent Friday for publication next week, are the elimination of a requirement that Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement vet the third-party vendors who inspect offshore oil equipment for safety. The agency will leave in place provisions requiring the use of remote-operated underwater vehicles and real-time monitoring of offshore operations, but will tweak them to make compliance easier for companies.

Still, BSEE officials have backed off some of the changes originally intended for the well-control rule. One change the regulators won’t be making: deleting the word “safe.”

In a draft of the proposed changes submitted to the White House budget office late last year, the BSEE proposed eliminating a requirement that the agency affirm that plans for maintaining pressure in wells as they are drilled were safe. The agency argued in that version that the language was “redundant” and might lead regulators to overreach when deciding whether to approve drilling permits.

Instead, according to agency officials and people familiar with the final proposal, the existing rules will remain in place, while BSEE will ask drillers to submit guidance on how the provision could be changed in the future.

 

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