Six years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Department of Interior released new rules to prevent another catastrophe.
New offshore drilling safety standards, called the Well Control Rule, focus on blowout preventers and other equipment, requiring "more stringent designs and stricter operating procedures for critical equipment used in offshore energy development," says Secretary Sally Jewell.
It "upholds our responsibility to the American people, which is around the safe and responsible development of our resources in a way that we’re learning from our mistakes from the past," she adds.
Besides strict standards for blowout preventers – the equipment that failed during the oil spill and which is supposed to stop disasters from getting out of hand – it introduces stronger standards for well casing and cementing, monitoring and containment.
Although consulted on the measures along with a long list of stakeholders, the oil industry slammed the bill, and Congressional Republicans threaten to pass legislation to block it.
"The proposed rule is absolutely not sufficient to protect our oceans, but it is a significant improvement over the status quo," says Jacqueline Savitz at Oceana. "The only way to truly ensure there will never be another disaster of the magnitude of Deepwater Horizon is to stop drilling offshore."
Activists tried to block new offshore oil leases in the Gulf:
"The fact that it has taken six years to get this rule out is a stunning indictment of our regulatory process: It moves far too slowly. Even in the wake of historic deregulatory disasters like the BP oil spill, our regulatory system takes years to address glaring safety gaps that devastate working families, consumers and our environment," says Amit Narang at Public Citizen. "While corporate negligence deserves most of the blame, the lack of government safety regulation and oversight played a role in the BP disaster."
In March, after receiving over 1 million comments, Interior reversed its decision to allow offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. 110 coastal towns signed resolutions against drilling, because their economies depend on healthy ecosystems for fisheries, wildlife and tourism, not to mention the noise, traffic, pollution and potential oil spills associated with drilling, refining and transporting oil. The Gulf states need to do the same.
Recently, BP’s fines were finally approved by federal court, releasing funds for restoration of the Gulf. $8.8 billion of the $20.8 billion settlement will go to a Gulf Restoration Fund to restore water quality, wetlands, and habitats along hundreds of miles of shoreline.
Incredibly, the settlement allows BP to deduct about $15 billion, sticking US taxpayers with the tab.
Read Oceana’s report, Time for Action, Six Years After Deepwater Horizon: