Nine years ago people across the U.S. and world looked on in horror as BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and unleashing an unprecedented torrent of oil that inundated vast stretches of the Gulf.
In response to the disaster, U.S. lawmakers and regulators passed a series of new safety and environmental rules and took other measures to ensure that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was never repeated.
Response to the spill also made certain areas of the globe off limits to the oil and gas industry on the premise that if an oil spill even a fraction of the size of the BP spill were to occur there, the consequences would likely be extreme and irreparable.
Now, however, the rules and regulations that made the Gulf and other marine environments safer from oil and gas drillers are being rolled back by the Trump Administration and its fiercely anti-regulation agenda.
Oceana, one of the world’s leading environmental groups focused on ocean preservation, says that the measures put in place after the BP oil spill were always insufficient, largely because they were written by the oil and gas lobby and the lawmakers in their pocket. Therefore, any scaling back of the protections that do exist is a recipe for disaster.
The group says the Trump Administration is also intent on expanding offshore drilling into ecologically sensitive parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that have never been drilled in before.
Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, said that less safety and more drilling is a formula for future disasters.
“President Trump must drastically reverse course in order to prevent another BP Deepwater Horizon-like disaster. We should not be expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling to new areas when there’s overwhelming bipartisan opposition.
“Coastal communities and our environment cannot afford another environmental catastrophe, which is where we are headed under President Trump’s proposals. It’s time for President Trump to stand with coastal communities, not the oil and gas industry,” she added.
In an interview with WWL-TV Channel 4 New Orleans, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), likened safety and environmental regulations to punishments for oil and gas drillers.
“Every other company that was drilling out there had already been safe, had great safety records, before. And you had one massive mistake that cost lives, it cost incredible environmental damage, and you always want to learn from that,” Rep. Scalise told WWL-TV. “But you don’t want to punish the people who were already doing everything right. You want to say look, let’s make sure this can’t happen again and there are now higher standards in place …”
But as the public record shows, it was that same trust in the oil and gas companies and the same lack of government oversight – not just of BP but of all the other players in the Deepwater Horizon drilling project that paved the way for that disaster. Perhaps it’s time to start listening to the voices of safety and reason and not those who accept major campaign donations from the industries valuing profits over safety and putting our coastal communities at risk.