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The Trump Administration is targeting a number of important offshore drilling regulations enacted in the wake of the deadly and environmentally disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

The push to weaken the regulations coincides with an administration effort to vastly increase offshore oil and gas drilling in the United States.

Regulatory Failures Contributed to Deepwater Horizon Offshore Oil Rig Explosion

The April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and injured dozens of others.

The incident also spawned one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history, causing more than $17 billion in damages to natural resources.

A national commission created to investigate the disaster determined that significant regulatory failures contributed to a series of mistakes by BP, Haliburton and Transocean that led to the catastrophe.

Trump Administration Targets “Well-Control”, Other Offshore Drilling Regulations

Those findings inspired a regulatory overhaul intended to prevent future Deepwater Horizon disasters. But 7 years later, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) under President Donald J. Trump is preparing to gut many of those vital regulations, including.

  • Rules that require the streaming of real-time data of oil production operations to onshore facilities.
  • Requirements for third-party inspections of blowout preventers and other critical equipment.
  • The “well-control” rule, which requires the use of certain safety equipment and operations aimed at reducing the risk of explosions.

The current head of BSEE – a drilling industry advocate – contends that the Obama Administration went too far in overhauling regulations following the Deepwater Horizon explosion. His agency also asserts that the offshore drilling industry has learned from the disaster and has implemented changes since 2010 that make strict regulation unnecessary.

Trump Administration Set to Open Nearly All Federal Waters to Offshore Drilling

The Trump Administration claims that reducing regulations will save the oil industry $900 million over 10 years. Notably, the regulatory purge is being proposed just as the administration is set to open nearly all U.S. coastal waters to offshore drilling.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed auctioning off the right to drill in federal waters in the Arctic,  Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the eastern Gulf of Mexico – areas where drilling has been banned for decades.

The governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington – some of them Republicans – have all voiced opposition to the Trump Administration’s offshore drilling plans.

Following a meeting with the Republican Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reversed plans to allow drilling off the coast of that important swing state. However, there appears to be little willingness on the part of the administration to grant a similar reprieve to other coastal states.

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