Offshore Drilling is Expanding as Safety Regulations Shrink
Earlier this year, the current administration established plans to roll back safeguards created for the offshore industry after the Deepwater Horizon accident. The Deepwater Horizon accident is the most significant oil disaster in the history of United States offshore drilling operations. It claimed the lives of 11 workers, injured 17 more, and spilled an estimated 4.9 million barrels into the ocean. The deadly accident was a red flag warning about safety issues throughout the industry and inspired lawmakers to improve safety regulations.
What Regulations Are Changing?
The administration attempted to expand drilling to the Atlantic, Pacific, and off Florida’s Gulf Coast. However, legal challenges have placed this expansion on hold. Instead, the administration has set its eyes on changing regulations in the part of the Gulf which has already had one of the most significant oil spills in history. Now, offshore drilling might be opened in areas of the Gulf of Mexico which have been closed to exploration for over three decades.
Specifically, the current administration wants to reform the Well Control Rule, which took steps toward reducing risks with offshore drilling. The revisions will remove requirements to have onshore monitoring for offshore rigs and will make it easier for the drilling industry to influence safety regulators. Additionally, the revised rules will relax regulations for the testing of blowout preventers, the last line of defense from preventing an explosion in an underground well. A failed blowout preventer contributed significantly to the destructive and deadly events on the Deepwater Horizon.
Supporters of the Well Control Rule say that the administration is disregarding research critical to shaping the rule. Regulation supporters emphasize that the savings introduced by eliminating safety standards are not beneficial to the companies they are supposed to be helping. They argue that BP lost $60 billion during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or 70 times what they’d save through the relaxation of offshore drilling rules. So, some believe that deregulation will actually harm the industry's profits more than increase them.
Why These Regulation Rollbacks Matter
The offshore industry provides some of the most important materials used by the rest of the United States economy. Men and women working on oil rigs, platform, boats, and other vessels need to be protected as they work. Their lives and work make our nation's prosperity possible. If our safety regulations let them down, we let down ourselves as a nation. Arnold & Itkin is always focused on offshore safety and hopes that new regulation standards can keep America's offshore workers safe.
We helped nearly a third of the crew of the Deepwater Horizon recover after their harrowing experience during the worst oil industry disaster in the nation's history. Our team saw what relaxed regulations cause, and we hope that companies remember that the wellbeing of their employees matters more than saving on safety costs.