By Eli Presberg, League of Conservation Voters
Hoping most people across our country would be distracted taking down ornaments from Christmas trees, finishing eggnog, and writing resolutions, President Donald Trump’s Department of the Interior (DOI) used the week between Christmas and New Year’s to sneak through a repeal of two critical environmental safeguards.
First, they proposed reversing regulations for offshore drilling created by the Obama administration in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the worst in our nation’s history. Second, they got rid of rules requiring companies to reveal what chemicals they use in fracking on public lands as well as requirements to protect our water supplies from contamination from fracking.
The offshore drilling regulation required third-party monitoring of blowout preventers, a safety mechanism whose failure caused 11 deaths and spilled 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Despite the fact that these safeguards were the least that could be done following this catastrophe, the Trump administration dismissed the regulations as unnecessary burdens that prevent “the Administration’s goal of achieving energy dominance.”
This clearly shows their willingness to prioritize oil companies’ bottom lines over the safety of people, waters, and wildlife.
In a similarly motivated move, DOI moved to dismantle safeguards for fracking on federal lands. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process where oil companies inject thousands of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to release oil trapped within rock formations. It has been linked by different studies to increased earthquake activity, lower birth weights, and contaminated drinking water.
DOI plans to no longer require companies to disclose what chemicals they pump underground, despite an EPA report that these chemicals can pollute drinking water and pose possible health hazards such as neurotoxicity, liver and kidney toxicity, and cancer. The Bureau itself even admitted that this change does little to promote the Trump administration’s goal of increased oil and gas production. By their analysis, the estimated savings produced by the rule would be only $9,690 per well, a small fraction of each well’s development cost that is unlikely to change any industry investment decisions. Once again, the Trump administration has decided that tiny gains for huge corporations should come before the rights of people to both clean drinking water and knowledge about industrial pollution happening in their backyards.
Unfortunately, the Department isn’t satisfied with just these rollbacks. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke just announced dramatic new expansions of offshore drilling, and a recent report hints that the Department could soon gut protections for the Arctic. You can read about LCV’s response to the expansion of drilling here. This reckless combination, of gutting safety regulations while wildly expanding drilling, puts millions livelihoods and safety at risk.
However, the fight is not over. The Department of the Interior is taking public comments on the offshore drilling safety rule until January 29th, and we must speak out now to fight for the protection of our nation’s waters. Submit your comment now to combat the Trump administration’s dangerous moves to prioritize the interests of oil companies over those of the our nation’s people.