Zinke is officially rolling back offshore oil and gas production safety rules

Kyla Mandel

Kyla Mandel Associate Editor, Think Progress

Safety rules for the oil and gas industry introduced after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster are officially being rolled back by the Trump administration.

In a notice that will appear in the Federal Register Friday, the Department of Interior removes or revises certain rules focusing on safety requirements during the time an oil platform is producing oil and gas (as opposed to the drilling process).

Removing these regulations will help boost fossil fuel production, the notice explains.

“This rule,” it states, “supports the Administration’s objective of facilitating energy dominance by encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production and reducing unnecessary burdens on stakeholders, while ensuring safety and environmental protection.”

The rule change removes the mandate that independent third parties certify safety devices ensuring effective operations in extreme conditions. Instead, oil company employees will now be allowed to examine these devices themselves.

Companies will also no longer be required to notify the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) of “false alarms” that may come from safety equipment sensors. Companies will also only be required to inform officials when initial production of oil and gas begins at the site, rather than every subsequent time production starts.

This set of rules was not the main regulation introduced under the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 people and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. However, there have also been proposals to weaken parts of the central regulation, the Well Control Rule, as well.

The Interior’s notice comes from an administration pushing to expand offshore drilling along the country’s coastline — something the majority of local leaders oppose.

The news also comes shortly after the department announced it would auction off 78 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico for further oil and gas extraction. And at a conference earlier this month, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reportedly told the oil and gas industry “the government should work for you.”

The BSEE in a statement said that it incorporates the industry’s “best science and best practices…to ensure safety and environmental sustainability.”

But, reacting to the news, the director of the Sierra Club’s lands protection program, Athan Manuel, stated, “Nothing could be more reckless than seeking to expose more of our coasts to the risks of drilling while simultaneously increasing those risks by rolling back commonsense safety standards designed to protect workers and the environment from disasters like Deepwater Horizon.”

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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