The Trump Administration on Thursday announced plans to loosen offshore-drilling regulations that were put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to prevent another disaster.
The new rules — one of which will reduce testing requirements for safety devices called blowout preventers — were announced by former oil lobbyist and acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and detailed in a 289-page plan, according to the New York Times. A malfunctioning blowout preventer was one of the leading causes of the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, which caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
The changes reduce the amount of live data that operators are required to provide onshore monitors and the amount of safety test reporting that they must provide to the Interior Ministry, the U.S. government department responsible for the management of public lands and natural resources. The legislation also removes the requirement for the Interior Department to externally verify safety operations and equipment used by offshore drillers, according to the Times.
The document also said that the changes will save the oil industry $824 million over 10 years, according to the Times.
Many of the changes were requested by the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade association and lobbying group, the Times reports.
“The Trump administration, in other words, wants to hand over responsibility for industry safety to the very entity the commission warned against entrusting with that responsibility,” said Bob Deans, a spokesman for the advocacy group the Natural Resources Defense Council, according to the Times.
Many of the regulations being relaxed were implemented during former President Barack Obama’s administration based on the recommendations of a government committee which investigated the causes of the Deepwater incident, which spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil before it was finally stopped.
Environmental groups expressed their concern.
“The well control rule was one of the most important actions we took in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. If the Trump administration’s final rule weakens these protections, it will put workers, waters and wildlife at needless risk,” environmental non-profit Earthjustice said on Twitter.
U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed to open more U.S. water to offshore drilling, but his plans have been delayed. In late March, a federal judge in Alaska dismissed his 2017 executive order reversing Obama-era moratoriums on drilling in the Arctic.