Protect Offshore Drilling Regulations!

By Christina Tarr

It seems it’s not enough for the Interior Department proposing to open all coastal waters of the United States (including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but excluding Florida, apparently) to leasing for continental shelf oil and gas drilling (don’t forget to comment on that, by the way, and note that there will be public hearings on leasing for offshore drilling, including one in Sacramento on February 8). Now, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is asking to roll back offshore drilling safety regulations — the regulations that were put in place following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This is part and parcel of  Trump’s effort to cut back on all environmental protections to increase profits for his friends in the oil and gas business. Naturally, groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association are in favor.

A few things (among others) that the proposed rules do:

  • Delete a requirement that drillers propose to use only a safe amount of pressure in new wells
  • Loosen controls on blowout preventers, which seal off wells in case of an accident, and which currently are required to have a back-up plan in case of malfunction
  • Amend a standard that currently requires that equipment demonstrate that it can withstand a surge in pressure
  • Do away with third-party certification, which requires that an independent party confirm that equipment meets standards

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which was created by the Obama Administration after the Deepwater Horizon spill, was never intended to promote oil production. It was kept separate from the leasing arm of the Interior Department to ensure that safety would not be compromised for profit. With these regulation changes, the BSEE now moves into a role as a promoter of industry, leaving no agency whose sole role is to promote safety. If we know anything about pipelines, it’s that they leak. The danger is increased exponentially when you are drilling miles offshore underwater. In essence, experts have concluded, the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill could have been prevented – and the proposed changes in regulations favor the oil industry and money over safety and the environment.

You can read a description of the proposed changes here, and you have until January 29, 11:59 PM EST to submit comments protesting the proposed rules. Submit comments here, and also read comments that have been made already.

Sample comment:

Do not weaken the current regulations on offshore drilling. The current regulations incorporate valuable lessons learned from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, when 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea, killing nearly a million seabirds and still causing effects in the Gulf. The proposed rules loosen controls on blowout preventers and third party certification that safety devices will work under the extreme conditions in which they are placed. The impact of another spill like the Deepwater Horizon, which the new rules practically guarantee, will far outweigh the benefits of reducing operating costs for oil companies that can well afford them.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement should be committed to the safety of offshore drilling operations, not with oil company profits. Strong regulation and an independent BSEE are needed to ensure that offshore drilling can coexist with other important uses of our coastline, including recreation, tourism, fishing and wilderness.

You can also sign up to receive more information about, or help plan, actions during the first two weeks of February to protest plans for the huge new federal offshore drilling program.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

On the Rally Against Hate

On August 27, a demonstration called “No to Marxism in America” is scheduled in Berkeley as part of a weekend of white supremacist events in the Bay Area. This event appears to be planned by many of the same people that planned similar events earlier this year in Berkeley, including white nationalist and white supremacist groups like Identity Evropa. Especially in light of the events in Charlottesville on August 12, Indivisible East Bay believes it is important to alert our membership to this upcoming rally.

An organization called Unite for Freedom from Right Wing Violence in the Bay Area has planned a peaceful counter-protest for the same day. This counter-protest will take place several blocks from the right-wing rally, and the organizers have assured us that keeping the event peaceful and safe are their top priorities. As such, we have endorsed the event. We believe it is important to oppose ideologies of white supremacy in our community, and are proud to stand indivisible with Unite and the others endorsing this event.

However, we recognize that despite all best efforts and intentions there is still a real possibility of violence. The events in Charlottesville made clear what we already knew: Trump supporters and white nationalists and supremacists can be deadly violent. We also note the possibility of violence from counter-protesters; we don’t equate these individuals or groups in any way with any neo-Nazi, KKK, white supremacist, etc. groups or individuals, but any use of violence is incompatible with IEB’s Code of Conduct. This danger isn’t just limited to those who attend the counter-protest: Trump supporters at previous rallies this year marched around the Berkeley Downtown area and antagonized bystanders as they went about their regular business. And so we want to warn all of our members of the danger that this “No to Marxism in America” brings to Berkeley, especially if they choose to attend the counter-protest.

Take caution when in the Downtown Berkeley area on August 27.


In solidarity,

Indivisible East Bay