Sending Office: Honorable Nanette Diaz Barragan
Sent By:
Mike.Stoever@mail.house.gov

TELL SECRETARY ZINKE: 

PROTECT OUR COASTLINES AND PREVENT ANOTHER DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER

Co-Signers (5): Lowenthal (CA), Barragán (CA), Price (NC), Crist (FL), Carbajal (CA)

Dear Colleague,

We invite you to join us in urging Secretary Zinke to prioritize the economic vitality of our clean coastlines and wildlife resources by keeping in place the Well Control Rule, a common-sense safety regulation. At a time when nearly all of America’s coastal
waters have been placed on the table for increased oil and gas drilling, the Trump Administration has simultaneously taken steps to ease regulations such as this that govern the oil and gas industry. This would be an enormous mistake.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster was the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Eleven workers lost their lives and more than 4 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico, causing more than $17 billion in damages to the natural resources of the
region. In the wake of this disaster, a bipartisan national commission was assembled to investigate its cause. The panel concluded that the mistakes made by the companies involved revealed “such systematic failures in risk management, that they place in doubt
the safety culture of the entire industry”[1].

As a result, several regulations aimed at better governing the oil and gas industry were put into place. These include the well control rule, which requires the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to confirm that the amount of pressure
drillers propose to use in a new well is “safe”, thus reducing the risk of blowouts such as the one that caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This is the same rule targeted by the current Administration that we are urging be preserved.

The replacement rule under consideration by the current Administration minimizes some of the oil and gas industry’s obligations and changes compliance terms in several instances to language favored by drillers. It would lighten industry’s responsibilities,
and in so doing suggest a return to a more permissive regulatory era. According to former BSEE administrator Michael Bromwich, “loosening [this] regulation, taken together with other aspects of the Administration’s approach, significantly increases the risk
of a catastrophic accident”[2].

It is simply too soon to roll back this regulation, which was the result of intensive negotiation with industry and only took effect in 2016. Doing so also poses a conflict of interest for BSEE, tasking safety regulators with the concerns of promoting oil
and gas development. Simply put, BSEE should not be in the role of prioritizing corporate profits ahead of the health and safety of our coastal economies.

If you would like to cosign this letter, please fill out the form here. You will receive a confirmation email.

If you have any questions, please contact Mike Stoever in Rep. Barragán’s office at mike.stoever@mail.house.gov(x58820).

Sincerely,

 

Alan S. Lowenthal                                                      Nanette Diaz Barragán                                                                                                                                                                    

Member of Congress                                                  Member of Congress

 

David E. Price                                                             Charlie Crist

Member of Congress                                                  Member of Congress                         

 

 

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary

U.S. Department of the Interior

1849 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20240

June XX, 2018

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We write today in opposition to the proposed rule changes to the Well Control Rule (FR 2018-09305) published on May 11, 2018. In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)
adopted several recommendations from multiple investigation teams and incorporated certain industry technical standards to improve the safety of offshore operations. It is critical these standards, enhanced blowout preventer (BOP) well design and modified
well-control requirements, remain fully intact.

Less than a decade ago, our country experienced the worst environmental disaster in its history when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank, leading to millions of barrels of oil pouring unchecked into the Gulf of Mexico and polluting our
shores. This tragedy resulted in a loss of eleven lives and billions of dollars in fishing and tourism for Gulf Coast economies; the contamination of about 1,100 miles of coastal marshes and beaches; and huge impacts on dolphins, seabirds, and other wildlife
in the entire Gulf of Mexico. Since then, the offshore oil and gas industry has fully rebounded, with record levels of offshore oil production and increased number of leases made available in deeper and ultra-deep water. The need for these safety standards
to protect our coastal economies from another oil spill has never been stronger. 

The Well Control Rule, as finalized in 2016, helped to make substantive improvements to the safety of offshore oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf, implementing many of the recommendations made by numerous expert panels that investigated
the tragic Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill of 2010. Unfortunately, the recent proposal to weaken these safety measures risks our coastal economies and communities. Removing real-time monitoring requirements, eliminating the need for third-party
verification organizations to be approved by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and allowing companies to submit equipment failures anonymously – effectively making the requirement voluntary – are all actions that will increase the
risk of oil spills and reduce the public’s confidence that drilling activities are being done safely.

Operators in the Outer Continental Shelf have not demonstrated that they can adequately supervise themselves to prevent similar threats that caused the Deepwater Horizon blowout. In fact, in recent surprise inspections by BSEE on around 40 offshore
platforms, serious and sometimes life-threatening problems were found at many of the sites, underscoring the need to hold the industry accountable. We must ensure that critical last-resort equipment, blowout preventers, are held to safe and reliable standards,
as provided in the well-control rule. As the blowout preventer is the very piece of equipment that failed in April 2010, we should be strengthening and preserving these protections, not eliminating them.

While the Department of the Interior took a number of positive steps in the immediate aftermath of that disaster, such as implementing new safety standards and establishing an independent offshore oil and gas regulator, more work remains. The Department
of Interior should not be rolling back offshore safety standards that further put our coastal economies and communities at risk. As your agency moves forward with consideration of these proposed roll-backs for offshore drilling safety, we urge you to prioritize
the economic vitality of our clean coastlines and wildlife resources by keeping the 2016 Well Control Rule in place.      

Sincerely,

 


[1] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-OILCOMMISSION/pdf/GPO-OILCOMMISSION.pdf

[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/proposed-changes-to-offshore-drilling-rules-raise-safety-questions-1514750730

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Selected legislative information: Energy, Environment, Natural Resources

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