offshore drilling

US Plans New Offshore Drilling Rules, But Questions Remain

The U.S. is set to announce new regulations on offshore oil and gas drilling as an increased safeguard against disasters like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to reports from Obama administration officials who spoke to the New York Times on Friday.

The announcement, which could come as soon as Monday, is set to be timed with the five-year anniversary of the spill, which killed 11 people and poured millions of barrels of oil into the ocean.

However, environmental organizations remained unconvinced, particularly as the new rules follow President Barack Obama’s stated support of expanded drilling operations in the Arctic and Atlantic.

Bob Deans, a spokesperson for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told the Times, “Industry and government have taken measures over the past five years to reduce some of the risk in what is an inherently dangerous operation at sea. That’s a far cry from saying it’s safe. And the last thing we need is to expose Atlantic or Arctic waters to a BP-style blowout.”

The regulations are reportedly the biggest to be put forward by the Obama administration in response to the spill and include stricter safety requirements on blowout preventers—the “last line of protection to stop explosions in undersea oil and gas wells,” which played a main role in the 2010 disaster when a supposedly fail-safe blowout preventer malfunctioned, the Times writes.

However, as noted by climate activists, “a panel appointed by President Obama to investigate the spill concluded that the chief cause of the disaster, which left the Gulf Coast soaked in black tar, was not the blowout preventer but a broad systemic failure of oversight by the companies involved in drilling the well and the government regulators assigned to police them.”

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