New rules meant to protect those working in the offshore drilling industry have been scrapped, after the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) refused to enact the regulations.
According to the Houston Chronical, the refusal comes as the BSEE under President Trump endeavors to eliminate what it considers to be unnecessary regulations.
Proposed Rules Allowed Offshore Rig Workers to Order Work Stoppages, Protected Them from Retaliation
The proposed rules would have allowed personnel aboard offshore oil rigs to order a work stoppage in the event of safety concerns. The regulations would have also provided offshore rig workers with whistleblower protections against retaliation.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recommended the regulations in 2016, after its investigation into the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig explosion established that BP and its contractors had cut corners and ignored early warnings of a blowout. The disaster left 11 workers dead and injured 17 others.
Earlier this month, the BSEE refused to implement the new regulations, arguing that they were not a priority. The agency also suggested that the power to enact the rules were outside the scope of its authority.
CSB Lacks Authority to Enact Recommendations
The CSB is tasked with investigating major chemical disasters. While the Board can make recommendations based on the outcome of an investigation, it has no power to enact its recommendations.
Citing confusion over which agency should implement the proposed offshore rules – the BSEE, the U.S. Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or the Coast Guard — the Board voted 3-to-1 to withdraw the recommendations earlier this month.
Board member Rick Engler cast the only opposing vote, arguing that the BSEE has oversight authority.
“Safety cannot be achieved without the meaningful engagement of workers,” he told The Houston Chronicle. “There is evidence of retaliation against whistleblowers in the Gulf of Mexico, but no effective measures for workers to seek out.”
Trump Administration Working to Relieve Offshore Drilling Industry of So-Called “Unnecessary” Regulations
The BSEE was created in response to regulatory failures that contributed to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. But a spokesperson for the Bureau told the Chronicle that, under President Trump, it is now focused on relieving the offshore oil and gas industry of “unnecessary” regulations, purportedly without jeopardizing worker safety.
The head of the BSEE’s offshore regulatory program has indicated that the agency should cooperate with industry groups to develop voluntary guidelines aimed at protecting offshore workers.
However, Jordan Barab, a former CSB investigator and deputy assistant secretary at OSHA, suggested that abandonment of the proposed regulations could prove disastrous.
“You’re just inviting these kinds of accidents to happen over and over again,” he told The Houston Chronicle.
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