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Pinterest Blowout Preventer Diagram. The device failed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

OFFSHORE DRILLING: White House OKs rewrite of blowout rule

The White House has approved the Interior Department's rewrite of offshore drilling standards that the Obama administration had imposed in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs' approval on Monday means the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule is on its way to the Federal Register.

It was a failed blowout preventer that helped create Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) in 2010. After BP PLC safety valves failed to stop the release of more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration broke up the old Minerals Management Service, citing lax oversight and cozy relationships with industry.

BSEE spent six years of drafting the Obama-era standards for blowout preventer design and maintenance, monitoring requirements, and a certification program for third-party inspectors.

But industry never hid its distaste for the rule. Within months of taking office, President Trump ordered the rule be reopened as part of his "American-First Offshore Energy Strategy."

The new rule mirrors current industry safety standards and would remove the requirement that BSEE approve the contractors hired by oil and gas companies to evaluate their well equipment.

"By reducing the regulatory burden on industry, we are encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production while maintaining a high bar for safety and environmental sustainability," BSEE Director Scott Angelle said when the proposed rule was announced.

Obama-era BSEE Director Michael Bromwich decried the rule changes as not in "the public's interest" (Energywire, Jan. 7).

"If you went up to a well-informed citizen on the street and asked, 'How would you feel about these standards set entirely by the industry?'" Bromwich told E&E News in January. "I think they would be shocked."

The environmental law firm Earthjustice, which already has five pending lawsuits against the Trump administration over offshore oil and gas leasing and exploration, has said it is prepared to challenge the repeal.