U.S. Interior Dept. relaxes rules on offshore oil, gas production

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Thursday eased safety rules on offshore oil and gas production put in place after the deadly 2010 BP Plc Deepwater Horizon disaster, as part of its effort to slash regulations and boost the energy industry.

The Interior Department revised the 2016 oil and gas production safety systems rule, part of a series of regulations the Obama administration enacted on offshore drilling and production after the drilling well disaster that killed 11 oil rig workers, led to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and cost BP about $65 billion.

The final rule will appear in the federal register as soon as Friday, according to a document seen by Reuters.

It eliminates or changes some safety standards for when a well is producing oil or gas, such as requiring that independent third parties certify devices. Other changes involve when operators have to notify the government about beginning oil and gas production and what they have to report about equipment failures.

The Interior Department said in the rule that “certain provisions in that (2016) rulemaking created potentially unduly burdensome requirements for oil and natural gas production operators on the Outer Continental Shelf, without meaningfully increasing safety of the workers or protection of the environment.”

The rule supports the administration’s “objective of facilitating energy dominance” it said.

The move was praised by industry but decried by environmentalists.

“We have a rule that is not a safety rollback, but instead incorporates modern technological advances,” Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said on Thursday.

Athan Manuel, director of lands protection at the Sierra Club, said the revisions were an “example of this administration’s shameless attempts to please corporate polluters, no matter the cost to workers’ safety, our health, or the environment.”

(This story has been refilled to correct name of rule and clarify that the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred on a drilling rig, in paragraph 2)

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney