Ten environmental groups are suing to challenge what they view as the Trump administration’s decision to weaken critical safety rules created after the nation’s worst offshore drilling disaster.
The rule changes announced in March will make oil and gas exploration and development off the Pacific, Atlantic, Alaska, and Gulf coasts “significantly more dangerous,” according to the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by national groups including the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, and groups on the Gulf and Carolina coasts.
“Rolling back safety standards while trying to aggressively expand offshore drilling just boggles the mind,” Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, another plaintiff, said in a news release. “So we’re asking the court to step in to protect workers, wildlife, coastal communities and our climate,”
Tiffany Gray, spokeswoman for the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said in an email that the agency cannot comment about pending litigation.
The rules were imposed six years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers as BP PLC executives celebrated the project’s safety record at the rig on April 20, 2010. Over the next 87 days, the well nearly a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico spewed out an estimated 130 million gallons of oil.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in March that the changes would eliminate unnecessary regulation while keeping safety and environmental protection.
“The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling … noted in its Report to the President that industry had been given decades to regulate itself in terms of worker safety and environmental stewardship and had done neither,” the lawsuit stated.
The 44-page lawsuit, filed by lawyers for the environmental legal nonprofit Earthjustice, said the changes will put “workers’ lives, coastal communities, and the environment at substantial risk.”
According to the suit, the administration has eliminated independent inspections of safety equipment, slashed standards for testing and inspecting equipment, weakened requirements for blowout preventers, and let existing drilling rigs use outdated standards for blowout preventers.