Trump Wants to Change Safety Regulations Created from Deepwater Horizon
The tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an accident that touched thousands of lives, lost millions of gallons of oil, and ended in billions of dollars in legal payouts. However, the impact did not stop at the civilian or business level. The Deepwater Horizon case not only affected people and workers, it also moved the government to action.
The event that killed 11, injured 17, and impacted thousands more moved the Obama administration to increase regulations for the drilling industry in hopes that another massive oil explosion would be avoided. They set out to tackle some of the concerns that the Deepwater Horizon platform raised when it unexpectedly blew. Regulations were implemented that increased the integrity of safety standards reporting. The goal of the regulation was to require that oil companies have their “blowout preventers” checked by third party investigators who were to evaluate the integrity of the system under “extreme conditions.” As regulations take time to implement, it wasn’t until September 2016 when the safety standards set forth by the Obama administration took effect. However, only 15 months later, the Trump administration is looking to deregulate the industry to save companies millions of dollars over the course of 10 years.
On December 28, 2017, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement released a notification that it is currently reviewing the regulations of the Production Safety Systems enforcement. The notification stated that it would, “amend the regulations regarding oil and natural gas production to reduce certain unnecessary regulatory burdens imposed under the existing regulations.” The BSEE believes the changes to the regulations will significantly decrease regulatory spending for oil companies, saving $228 million dollars over the next 10 years.
In regards to its decision to implement these changes, the BSEE reasoned that, “certain provisions in that rulemaking created potentially unduly burdensome requirements to oil and natural gas production operators on the OCS, without significantly increasing safety of the workers or protection of the environment.” This means the BSEE believes that the regulations as they stand now have increased “requirements” for oil and gas production operators while mostly keeping worker safety the same. However, the phrase “without significantly increasing safety of workers” suggests that worker safety has increased from these regulations, and it appears that the term significantly is up for interpretation.
Some of the amendments, additions, or deletions of the provision are summarized as follows:
- Add gas lift shut down valves to list of safety and pollution prevention equipment
- Remove the requirement that operators must use a third party entity to evaluate the safety of devices in extreme conditions to meet safety codes
- Revise requirements for piping schematics and electrical system information
- Clarify various requirements that were not expressly obvious
The main desired change by the BSEE in the Production Safety Systems provisions is the removal of the requirement that operators use a third party entity to evaluate the integrity of various safety devices. BSEE claims the provision is unnecessary for two reasons. First, the provision is stated as unnecessary because outside parties may not be properly qualified to measure the safety qualifications of the equipment. Essentially, operators are saying outside entities may not do a good job of evaluating the safety standards because they are outsiders. However, this statement poses a question. “Why would a company hire a third party entity to check their safety requirements if the entity is incapable of doing so?” Operators are sure to have a say of who will check their safety devices, so if a third party is not “qualified,” then the operators have chosen their third party inspector poorly and should have hired a “specialist.”
The second reason the BSEE states the provision is unnecessary is that there are already provisions currently in place that ensure that safety devices are capable of handling extreme conditions. The BSEE is suggesting that operators check safety devices already, therefore it is unnecessary to force them to pay extra to double check it. While the premise is true, there are safety regulations that safety devices must be in accordance with. These same regulations did not stop the Deepwater Horizon oil rig from exploding due to a faulty safety device that, under the policy now on the chopping block, would have required an outside third party to run tests on the system. While speculative, having a third party check the safety valve that exploded on Deepwater Horizon may have stopped the explosion from ever happening.
At Arnold & Itkin, we represent maritime oil rig workers worldwide. In fact, more crew members of the Deepwater Horizon trusted Arnold & Itkin to represent them than any other law firm. Our clients trusted us because we have proven to get results time and again. If you want attorneys who have secured billions of dollars on behalf of clients, call (888) 346-5024 for a free consultation concerning your case.