May 2, 2019 / 1:31 PM / 2 months ago

Trump administration to relax offshore safety rules sparked by 2010 Gulf oil spill

May 2 (Reuters) - The Trump administration will unveil on Thursday its final plan to roll back offshore drilling safety measures put in place by the Obama administration after the fatal 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the worst in U.S. history, raising concerns by some groups over potential risks to workers and the environment.

The Interior Department will announce the final revised rule at an afternoon event in Port Fourchon, a Louisiana seaport that services over 90% of the Gulf of Mexico’s deepwater oil production.

Last year, the agency’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement proposed revisions to the 2016 offshore well control rule, which had required the real-time monitoring of operations and certification by third parties of emergency devices, among other measures.

That reflected changes sought by the oil and gas industry, that said the Obama-era rules imposed financial burdens that would curtail future development and production.

The BP Macondo well blowout and fire on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010 killed 11 workers and cost billions of dollars for Gulf Coast restoration.

Environmental groups warned that relaxing the well control rule was reckless and another example of the Trump administration catering to industry demands.

“The Trump administration is putting industry cost savings ahead of safety just weeks after the anniversary of the worst oil spill in U.S. history,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director for Oceana. “We should be implementing new safety reforms, not rolling back the too few safety measures currently in place.”

The American Petroleum Institute said this week that voluntary standards already adopted by the oil and gas industry have increased offshore drilling safety.

“This progress goes hand-in-hand with the proposed revisions to a number of offshore regulations to ensure that smarter and more effective regulations are constantly evolving, as we move forward with safe and responsible offshore development,” said Eric Milito, API’s vice president for offshore operations. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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