The Trump administration's latest really bad idea, in service to the fossil fuel industry and big business in general, is to relax safety standards on offshore oil rigs that were imposed to prevent another catastrophe like the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
As with the protections imposed on banks after the 2007-08 economic meltdown, this administration views these regulations as unnecessary, burdensome and restrictive on commerce. Yet, amazingly, banks managed not to suffocate and die as a result of the post-meltdown regulations. In fact, they flourished.
Big Oil, likewise, continues to enjoy massive profits despite the safety standards the White House is now trying to gut. It's not that we like the idea of regulations for the sake of regulating; we just hate worker fatalities, oil spills, dead sea animals and massive environmental damage.
It was just over nine years ago that the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers. For months afterward, the damaged well below the rig spewed some 200 million gallons of oil into the ocean, making it the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Sea mammals, turtles and other species in the Gulf coastal region still haven't fully recovered.
Following the disaster, the Obama administration imposed tough new rules on deep-water drilling. They focused in large part on devices meant to prevent blowouts of the ocean-floor wells, the failure of which is what caused the explosion and subsequent spill. It's those rules that President Donald Trump's Department of the Interior is now dismantling at the behest of the same oil industry that so tragically botched its responsibility to its workers and the environment.
Among other changes, the reversal of the Obama-era rules will reduce the frequency and duration of safety tests. They will scrap the design changes the government mandated in the apparatus that's supposed to prevent blowouts. And they will allow the oil companies to use third-party companies for inspections instead of government inspectors — a virtual invitation to put foxes in charge of the chicken coop.
The administration's hostility toward environmental concerns, and its slavish dedication to anything the oil industry wants, has already manifested itself in Trump's appointment, confirmed barely a month ago, of former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt as head of Interior. The most dire warnings about the damage this walking conflict of interest might usher in sure didn't take long to come true.
It's bad enough this White House is hindering the fight to address climate change, which Trump and other science deniers have, against all data, claimed is based on hysterical predictions. Now they're ignoring dangers that have already played out in front of the whole world.
Should more oil rig workers, and more of the environment, fall victim to another Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, let there be no question about where the blame belongs.
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