Op-Ed

Trump’s stealth rollback of oil-spill protections a disaster for Florida

Thick oil sullied the waters of the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in 2010.
Thick oil sullied the waters of the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in 2010. Associated Press

Floridians remember that dark day of April 20, 2010. BP Oil’s Deepwater Horizon offshore platform exploded killing 11 people and injuring 17 others. Over the course of a seemingly endless 87-day stretch, Florida watched helplessly as 200 million gallons of dirty crude oil gushed into our beloved Gulf of Mexico. Florida’s tourism industry lost billions of dollars that year with thousands put out of work. Florida leaders swore that we would never allow this to happen again.

President Obama led the recovery by negotiating a $20 billion spill response fund. He also enacted two new rules related to safety systems and well control to help protect us from another disaster. But while Floridians were enjoying the holidays, President Trump announced that he was dismantling these rules just before New Year’s — with the hope that no one was paying attention.

Well, we are paying attention.

▪ The Production Safety Systems Rule governs safety systems used during offshore oil production. Obama’s original rule required safety and pollution prevention equipment to be inspected by independent auditors certified by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Trump’s proposed rule, published on Dec. 29, eliminates that mandatory requirement and simply encourages the use of industry-set “recommended practices.” In other words, the new rule will allow the oil companies to regulate themselves under an honor system, which is preposterous.

▪ The Well-Control Rule is intended to prevent a blowout similar to the BP oil spill. Under Obama’s original rule, oil companies have to show a safe balance in the downhole pressure and conduct an investigation within 120 days of equipment failure. Trump’s unpublished proposed rule removes the word “safe,” requires them to merely “indicate” rather than “show” a balance in pressure and only requires an investigation to begin within 120 days with no specific end date. Again, this is a complete cop-out to the oil industry that greatly increases the chances of another dangerous spill.

These proposed rules put Florida in grave danger. We cannot sit idly by and watch this disastrous history repeat itself. We must protect our way of life, our economy and our environment. Make your voice heard by submitting your comments in opposition to the proposed “Production-Safety-Systems Rule” at www.federalregister.gov.

Once published, you can submit your comments in opposition to the proposed “Well-Control Rule” at www.federalregister.gov as

Together, we can protect Florida’s world-class beaches, coastal waters and wildlife.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, of Orlando, represents Florida’s Ninth District.

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