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Biden proposes strengthening offshore drilling safety regulations loosened by Trump

The Biden administration on Monday proposed to strengthen certain safety regulations for offshore oil and gas drilling that were loosened under the Trump administration. 

After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 workers and released 134 million gallons of fuel into the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration implemented new safety regulations. 

In 2019, the Trump administration revised these standards, making them more industry-friendly.

On Monday, the Interior Department indicated that it would further tweak the rules, although the new proposal does not appear to be identical to what was put forth during the Obama years. 

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to the highest standards of worker safety and environmental protections,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a written statement. 

“As our nation transitions to a clean energy economy, we must commit to strengthening and modernizing offshore energy standards and oversight,” she added. 

Among the changes is the reinstatement of a requirement to send information on safety equipment failures to the federal government, instead of to certain third parties that were permitted to collect data during the Trump years. 

Under the new rule, inspections of these failures will also need to start sooner. Under the Trump administration, inspections needed to begin 120 days after a failure; they would now need to start in 90. Under the Obama rule, inspections had to be finished within 120 days.

The move comes after the Environmental Protection Agency similarly reinstated safety standards for chemical plants that were also loosened under Trump.

They also come after the Biden administration released an offshore drilling plan that could enable as many as 11 new opportunities to drill for oil and gas offshore. 

Under that plan, it’s not clear whether the department will move ahead with that many leasee sales, saying it could also pursue fewer or no lease sales in the coming years.