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Trump’s Well Control Rule Waivers Questioned in Congress

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The Trump Administration has approved hundreds of waivers exempting offshore drillers from key components of the Well Control Rule, and now members of a congressional committee want to know why.

Well Control Rule Inspired by Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion

The Obama Administration began work on the Well Control Rule shortly after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig explosion killed 11 offshore workers, injured 17 others, and devastated the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The regulations were finalized in July 2016, just six months before Obama left office.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) proposed gutting the regulations soon after Donald Trump became president, citing the costs imposed on drillers.

Well Control Waivers Allow Drillers to Escape Blowout Preventer Requirements

The Bureau’s revised Well Control Rule is currently under review, and will likely become actual policy in the near future. In the meantime, the BSEE has approved hundreds of waivers allowing companies to deviate from many of the provisions targeted by the Trump Administration

Most waivers exempted companies from testing and inspection requirements for blowout preventers, a key piece of safety equipment that failed aboard the Deepwater Horizon platform.

Others permitted non-standard compliance with well casing testing and well cementing requirements.

A handful waived a regulation that forbid welding activities while gas and oil continues to flow on an offshore rig. That particular scenario led to deadly explosion that killed three workers aboard a Black Elk Energy offshore platform in 2013.

BSEE Asked to Submit Well Control Waiver Requests

Last Tuesday, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee on energy and mineral resources, asked the BSEE to explain itself.

“Given that the administration is proposing a vast expansion of offshore drilling … it is particularly disturbing to see any waiving of offshore safety and environmental standards, let alone on such a broad scale,” they wrote in a February 26th letter to Bureau director Scott Angelle.

The letter demanded all unredacted waiver requests received by the BSEE in the 30 months prior to the Well Control Rule’s enactment, as well as unredacted requests submitted since the Obama-era regulations went into effect.

The BSEE must provide the requested documents this month, or work with the Committee to formulate an appropriate production schedule.

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