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U.S. Reinstates Stricter Offshore Oil Rig Safety Rules After Trump’s Loosening

The Biden administration has finalized tighter rules for offshore oil and gas drilling rigs to prevent catastrophic blowouts, reversing some policies implemented by the Trump administration. These rules are aimed at addressing the failures of blowout preventer equipment, which were a major cause of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that resulted in the death of 11 workers and a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The new rules, released by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, focus on the conditions and well pressures under which automatic well control devices operate. They require that remotely operated underwater vehicles be capable of opening and closing key components of blowout preventers, and they establish mandates and time limits for investigating failures and providing blowout data to regulators.

In addition to these changes, the Biden administration has maintained the expansion of the interval between blowout preventer inspections from 14 to 21 days, a move previously implemented under Trump’s administration.

Environmental organizations, which had filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s revisions, are cautiously optimistic about the new rules. Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, stated, “The rule requires that those testing and reporting on blowout preventers be certified and meet federal standards. It also requires that blow-out preventer failure reports be sent to BSEE.” However, Sakashita believes that the changes don’t go far enough and urges President Biden to declare a climate emergency and end offshore drilling.

The American Petroleum Institute has criticized the new regulations, arguing that they fail to meaningfully improve worker safety or protect the environment. Holly Hopkins, an API vice president, stated, “This rule continues the rampant politicization of the rulemaking process and represents another policy swing from administration to administration.”

Overall, these stricter offshore oil rig safety rules are an important step towards preventing future disasters and ensuring the safety of workers and the environment. However, ongoing efforts are needed to address the concerns raised by environmental organizations and industry representatives, and to find a balance between energy production and environmental protection.

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