NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Trump administration is easing some safety rules put in place by the Obama administration after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.
The incident claimed 11 lives, sullied the Gulf of Mexico with 3 million barrels of oil and impaired the livelihood of many working in the state’s seafood industry.
Now some of the regulations on blowout preventers and well-control will change.
The White House believes the Obama administration overreacted following the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history.
"Certainly, the BP oil spill was a tragedy. I was the lieutenant governor at the time in Louisiana soon after that BP oil spill and went through a variety of tough moments there…The previous administration elected to shut the offshore industry down for six months. So, we believe that was an overreaction there,” said Scott Angelle, Director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, as he announced the revisions.
Angelle announced the changes at Port Fourchon.
"Again, all very technical stuff that we believe make the workplace safer and the Gulf of Mexico more competitive,” he said.
He said the bulk of the current rules will remain in place.
"We found about 20 percent of the rule that was worthy of being revised, so 80 percent of the rule remains intact,” Angelle said.
But local environmentalists doubt offshore activity will be safer because of the modified regulations.
"I’m pretty concerned about it, actually. I think the BP disaster showed us that safety regulations are critical to both the safety of workers and to the health of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director of Healthy Gulf.
Following the spill, new rules included requirements for more stringent inspections of blowout prevention equipment and more real-time monitoring by oil companies.
"We’re more interested in allowing technology to be invented, incentivized, so we have a criteria, very prescriptive criteria for what we expect companies to do. How they do it, in terms of the technology they use, we’re going to leave that up to them, subject to our review of a plan and approval,” Angelle stated.
Sarthou disagrees with that approach.
"I think that relying on industry to choose whoever they want to do the inspections is sort of how we got ourselves into BP,” said Sarthou.
There are inherent risks associated with exploration and while Angelle could not say how much safer he believes the industry will be, he said the regulation changes will not increase those risks.
"That’s a difficult thing to give you a metric on. I’m confident as the person who is from Louisiana, who comes from a zip code where there are folks who work in this industry that we have made it safer, we have followed the instructions of the president,” Angelle stated.
Environmental groups remain concerned.
"Although I know that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is claiming that changes that they’ve made to this rule do not reduce safety I differ with their opinion,” said Sarthou.