July 19 (UPI) -- A group of Democratic senators said eroding federal rules on offshore oil and gas safety means the government is ignoring lessons from Deepwater Horizon.
The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement outlined proposed rules on offshore drilling safety mechanisms like blowout preventers.
After the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010, which left 11 rig workers dead, the Interior Department issued rules on safety measures like the blowout preventer and well-casing pressures. Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the department said it found some of those provisions were "potentially unduly burdensome" and did little to actually improve safety or protect the environment.
"The blowout preventer used by the Deepwater Horizon was found to be a critical failure, precipitating the disaster. Instead of strengthening requirements for blowout preventer systems, the Trump Administration's proposed rule reduces requirements for the design, operation, testing, maintenance, and inspection of blowout preventer systems," their letter read.
British energy company BP in 2012 claimed Halliburton, which worked at the Deepwater Horizon, destroyed test results regarding cement used to seal the well beneath the rig. A report from U.S. regulators determined the blowout that led to the explosion that sunk the rig was in part because of a faulty cement barrier. The blowout preventer, a device meant to contain a breach at the well, also failed.
Carl Barbier, the judge overseeing the case in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana, ruled BP released 3.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, about 1 million barrels less than the government estimated.
The BSEE published a proposed change in the rules for offshore oil and gas drilling in the Federal Registry in late 2017. The federal agency said the deregulation was a result of an executive order calling for a reduction on any undue burdens for the industry.
In order to make the United States and energy superpower, the BSEE said a "paradigm shift" was necessary for regulations regarding the outer continental shelf.
The American Petroleum Institute, one of the industry's main lobby groups, has said the proposal shows the government is evolving along with an oil and gas sector that's taken heed of offshore incidents like Deepwater Horizon.