S. Elizabeth Birnbaum was the director of the Minerals Management Service, the agency responsible for offshore oil and gas leasing, at the time of the Deepwater Horizon accident. She serves as senior counsel at Arabella Advisors.
April 20 marked the ninth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, an offshore drilling disaster that killed 11 men and triggered a pollution nightmare as uncontrolled oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico for almost three months. Last week, shortly after that anniversary, the Trump administration announced a rollback of regulations that had been written to prevent such an incident from happening again.
This should horrify you. Just three years after adopting the regulations in response to public outcry and the recommendations of a presidential commission, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has concluded that its rules caused “unnecessary burdens” on the industry.
The 2010 gulf oil spill was the largest single pollution event in the history of the United States. The disaster was caused by a complex combination of decisions by Transocean, owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig; BP, which owned the oil well; and Halliburton, which provided cement for the walls of the well. Together, these operators compromised the design of the oil well and ignored pressure changes as they installed a temporary seal on the well, thus causing a deadly blowout that led to a massive fire on the rig and an enormous oil spill once the rig sank to the sea floor days later.