BSEE officially starts process of rolling back offshore drilling safety measures

As predicted in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, the administration of US President Donald Trump on Friday began the process of rolling back safety measures affecting the offshore oil drilling industry, according to Bloomberg.

This entails the lifting and/or softening of rules and regulations on matters such as safety system design requirements and equipment failure reporting requirements.

The process began with the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) – which regulates the offshore drilling industry – issuing proposed changes to existing regulations.

Mainly these were regulations introduced last year by the administration of President Barack Obama as a response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

That tragedy, an explosion on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, cost 11 people’s lives and led to three months of oil flow from an uncapped gusher – the worst oil spill in US history.

The roll back of the safety regulations will save companies $288 million over 10 years, estimates the BSEE.

Among the rules being undone here are one requiring operators to certify through a third party that their safety devices are working properly.

Conspicuously, too, the rollback will de-fang a measure called the Well Control Rule which was brought in to tighten controls on blowout preventers – the piece of equipment that failed so disastrously in the Deepwater Horizon case.

The rule, like many of the others being weakened now, were only finalized in September 2016 after years of inquiry, study and recommendations.

President Trump has made cutting red tape one of his clarion calls, claiming that costly and burdensome rules are handcuffing US companies, including in the oil and gas industries.

Environmentalists reacted strongly against the planned rollback. Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity said that, by undoing the rules, “Trump is putting our coasts and wildlife at risk of more deadly spills…Reversing offshore safety rules isn’t just deregulation, it’s willful ignorance.”

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.


  1. The production safety rules being discussed in the 12/28 issued NPR had nothing to do with Deepwater Horizon blowout, which was a drilling operation, covered by drilling rules which were changed by a group of new and revised rules, commonly grouped as the “Well Control Rule”.

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