The latest in the Trump administration’s ongoing deregulation efforts has drawn stiff opposition from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.
On Saturday, Buchanan issued a press statement condemning the Interior Department’s announcement on Friday to roll back regulations that were adopted following BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Buchanan called the proposal by the department’s Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement “rash and reckless” and said if it is not withdrawn he would urge Congress to intercede.
“Have we forgotten the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe so soon?” Buchanan asked, referring to the 2010 explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and led to one of the worst oil spills and environmental disasters in U.S. history. “This is a recipe for disaster.”
The Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement on Friday said some of the regulations adopted in response to the tragedy created “potentially unduly burdensome requirements” on oil and gas operators. Its proposal was published Friday in the Federal Register.
In the statement, Buchanan describes himself as a longtime opponent of allowing drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast and says he supports strong safety measures enacted after the Deepwater Horizon incident to prevent similar disasters in the future.
“It would be a huge mistake to weaken these safety regulations and risk not only lives but catastrophic consequences to our environment,” Buchanan said. “If (Interior) Secretary (Ryan) Zinke does not reject this rash and reckless proposal then I will ask Congress to intercede and make the rules permanent.”
Buchanan has introduced the Oil Spill Prevention Act that would extend by five years a ban on oil drilling off much of Florida’s Gulf Coast until 2027. The current moratorium, which bans oil drilling within 125 miles of most of the Gulf, is set to expire on June 30, 2022.
Earlier this year, Buchanan opposed a Trump administration plan to open up more than 70 million acres off the coast of Florida to oil and gas drilling.
The Obama administration’s rules targeted blowout preventers, massive valve-like devices designed to prevent spills from wells on the ocean floor. The preventer used by BP failed. The rules required more frequent inspections of those and other devices and dictated that experts onshore monitor drilling of highly complex wells in real time.
In its notice Friday, the Interior Department said some provisions in the rules created “potentially unduly burdensome requirements” on oil and gas operators “without significantly increasing safety of the workers or protection of the environment.”
The bureau said that, when practical, it would give industry flexibility to meet safety and equipment standards rather than insisting on specific compliance methods.
The agency estimated that revising some rules and removing others would save the energy industry at least $228 million over 10 years.
Oil industry groups have complained about the potential cost of complying with the rules and predicted they would threaten thousands of jobs.