Trump Administration Overrules Engineers on Drilling Safety In Rule Rollbacks

Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig  Photo: U.S. Coast Guard via Reuters and the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the Trump Administration purged from the administrative record the written objections of its own engineers to the loosening of certain safety rules and procedures governing offshore drilling equipment.   The Journal found that internal deliberations with experts on the staff in which the experts expressed their concern about the safety of the looser rules are not reflected in the final decision memos issued by agency political appointees with close ties to the oil and gas industry.

Why This Matters:  There they go again!  Instead of coronavirus, it is oil and gas drilling safety, but the pattern is disturbingly familiar.  They have it all under control — no need to worry about public safety or science or sound engineering.  Those deep state bureaucrats are out to foil all their plans to make oil and gas drilling “great” again — like it was before the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill — the worst in our nation’s history — that killed 11 people when the drill rig exploded due to lax safety measures inadequate government oversight. These terrible decisions to lower safety standards at the behest of the administration’s friends in the industry are worse than even they are willing to let on — why else would they remove the recommendations?

What The Political Appointees Removed

The Journal got their hands on the original versions of several agency memos that provided the rationale for loosening the rules regarding offshore drilling.  The original memo noted that “BSEE does not agree with industry” that a proposed alternative safety standard, drafted by the American Petroleum Institute, “provides adequate methods for all possible situations.”  According to the Journal, the industry wanted to get rid of requirements for frequent testing of safety equipment because it costs drillers money and interrupts drilling activity. The industry wanted the mandate changed to require testing only every 21 days, a shift the agency said would save drillers $525 million a year.  It is also clear that the Trump political appointee that had the memos “scrubbed” also talked frequently on the phone with executives at oil companies — such as Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Arena Energy and Fieldwood Energy LLC — during the period when he ordered changes.  He also told a crowd of oil execs in 2017 to contact him by phone rather than by text or email because written communications would have to be part of the “public record” — a statement that previously drew criticism.

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