May 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Interior Department announced Thursday the planned rollback of oil and gas drilling regulations that were enacted after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history.
Under former President Barack Obama, restrictions were put in place after that oil spill killed 11 workers in 2010 and more than 200 million gallons of crude oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico over87 days. BP's costs in the blowout and spill have topped $60 billion, according to USA Today.
The new rule changes take effect in 60 days from Friday when it's published in the Federal Register.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the rule revision at a major location for offshore drilling near the Gulf of Mexico in Port Fourchon, La.
"Today's final rule puts safety first, both public and environmental safety, in a common sense way," Bernhardt said. "Incorporating the best available science, best practices and technological innovations of the past decade, the rule eliminates unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protection offshore. Under President Trump's leadership, America is a leader on energy resulting in greater security and economic prosperity."
The rule changes were characterized as "smarter regulation" that provides regulatory certainty.
The department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement released the final improved Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control regulations, known as the Well Control Rule.
The final rules address offshore oil and gas drilling, completions, workovers and decommissioning activities.
Changes loosened requirements for real-time monitoring of offshore drilling operations and easing requirements for companies to hold third-party certifications of easy access emergency equipment in the case of explosions or oil and gas leaks from wells.
"BSEE's review has been thorough, careful, and tailored," BSEE Director Scott Angelle said. "Free of undue regulatory burden while ensuring that operators conduct outer Continental Shelf activities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, today's rule will fuel and sustain responsible energy exploration and production of America's outer Continental Shelf."
Left unchanged are 274 out of 342 original Well Control Rule provisions. Sixty-eight provisions were identified as appropriate for revision and 33 provisions were added to improve operations on the OCS.
BSEE considered 424 recommendations arising from 26 separate reports from 14 different organizations developed in the wake of and in response to the Deepwater Horizon. They found that none of the revisions contravened any of these recommendations.
Environmentalists criticized the changes.
"The well control rule was one of the most important actions we took, as a nation, in response to the BP-style disaster at sea," Bob Deans, director of strategic engagement at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "The rule draws directly from lessons learned from that debacle. It creates tools to help reduce the risk of these dangerous industrial operations at sea."
USA Today reported the changes will save the oil industry more than $1.5 billion over the next 10 years, according to officials.
"This revised well control rule will help to further manage risks and better protect workers and the environment," Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute's vice president of upstream and industry operations, said in a statement. "The revision strengthens the rule and enhances a robust regulatory framework to ensure updated, modern, and safe technologies, best practices, and operations."