Trump Offshore Drilling

FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2010, file photo, rhe Development Driller III, which drilled the relief well and pumped the cement to seal the Macondo well, the source of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill, is seen in the Gulf Of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana. The Trump administration on Thursday, May 2, 2019, moved to ease safety regulations adopted after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon blowout, the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history that killed nearly a dozen people. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY         and ELLEN KNICKMEYER Associated Press

PORT FOURCHON, La. — The Trump administration moved Thursday to give oil and gas companies more flexibility in meeting safety requirements imposed after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed nearly a dozen people and was the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history.

The revised rules, which govern safety standards at offshore wells, come as the administration pushes to expand drilling off the U.S. coast, although court challenges and opposition from many coastal states have slowed its efforts.

The new safety changes were sought by the industry but fiercely challenged by environmentalists.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement the administration was acting to eliminate “unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protection offshore.”

Officials picked Louisiana’s Port Fourchon, a hub for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, to announce the changes. Port workers in hard hats and reflective safety vests applauded speakers’ calls for easing regulations.

“We’re more open to invention,” Scott Angelle, a safety regulator at the Interior Department, told the crowd. “We tell them what to do,” he said. “How they do it is up to them.”

Officials estimate the Trump administration revisions will save the oil industry more than $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.

Governors and lawmakers from both Republican- and Democratic-led states have fought the Trump administration’s plans for expanded offshore drilling. And a federal judge ruled last month that President Donald Trump had exceeded his authority when he ordered that the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic be opened to oil and gas development.

Eleven people died in April 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, ultimately releasing more than 3 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. Crews finally capped the well in July 2010, three months after it began gushing oil from the bottom of the sea in a spectacle captured live on video.

Conservation groups say the toll to wildlife included more than 1 million dead birds, and the government declared a fisheries disaster. BP says its costs in the blowout and spill continue to mount, and have topped $60 billion.

The explosion prompted a major overhaul of the agency that oversees offshore drilling, as investigators concluded regulators were too cozy with industry. The explosion and resulting oil spill also focused attention on blowout preventers, devices intended to monitor and control oil and gas wells to prevent uncontrolled release of crude oil or natural gas from a well.

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