This article titled “Trump policy of less safety and more offshore drilling is ‘a recipe for disaster'” was written by Oliver Milman in New York, for theguardian.com on Thursday 18th April 2019 08.00 UTC
Offshore oil and gas drilling in the US is plagued by “systemic failures” in oversight that are being worsened by Trump administration attempts to expand drilling and roll back safety requirements, a new report has warned.
The analysis of public documents by the conservation group Oceana found that while some minor improvements have been made since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, a system of lax oversight, paltry fines and overstretched inspectors risks further major oil spills.
This situation is further deteriorating due to the Trump administration opening up almost all US waters to offshore drilling, as well as repealing Obama-era safety rules put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill, according to the report, released on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the disaster.
“Less safety and more drilling is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “We should be implementing safety reforms, not rolling back what we have. Nearly 10 years on from the BP disaster, overarching failures haven’t been remedied.”
The report criticizes the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, for relying upon industry-written standards and for regularly granting exemptions to safety rules.
Penalties for rule-breaking by drilling companies are capped at little more than $44,000 per violation per day, with just 120 BSEE inspectors tasked with conducting 20,000 inspections in US waters each year. Oceana called this oversight regime “alarming” and demanded a much tougher system of inspections and fines.
A spokeswoman for BSEE said the agency had doubled its number of inspectors since 2010 “to significantly enhance our inspection program and ensure that we are providing sufficient oversight to drive improved safety performance and environmental stewardship.
“BSEE has made significant advances in technology, safety and environmental management systems, inspection strategies and risk management, and the regulatory framework since 2010,” reducing the risk of another accident, the representative said.
Conservationists have attacked the Trump administration for its sweeping “energy dominance” agenda that has seen oil and gas businesses invited to explore for resources in waters surrounding the US, including swaths of the Atlantic and Arctic previously put out of bounds due to concerns over environmental impacts and vocal opposition from coastal communities.
Many leading Republicans in coastal states have also expressed alarm over the huge expansion in drilling, with some warning that the potential auctioning off of Florida’s waters could cost Donald Trump dearly in the state in the 2020 presidential election.
In September, BSEE eased key safety rules put in place by the Obama administration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon calamity, where an explosion killed 11 people and caused millions of barrels of oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, fouling the coastline. BSEE said the watered-down rule would save industry around $13m a year.
While the BP oil spill is considered the worst environmental disaster in US history, smaller-scale oil spills are commonplace in US waters, with about 6,500 leaks occurring in federal waters between 2007 and 2017.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010