March 12, 2020 — Offshore oil and gas accidents and deaths increased dramatically after a decrease in safety inspections and enforcement actions from 2017 through 2019.
In late 2017 and 2018, under the direction of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, the Interior Department began loosening oversight of offshore drilling that the Obama administration enacted in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
From 2017 through 2019, there was a 13% decline in the number of inspection visits to rigs, platforms, pipelines and other facilities.
Inspectors also took 38% fewer enforcement actions against offshore oil and gas operators from 2017 through 2019.
The investigation also found that federal officials approved nearly 1,700 waivers to allowed oil companies to avoid complying with stronger safety standards for blowout preventers.
Blowout preventers are a critical piece of safety equipment that serve as the last line of defense against blowout explosions and oil spills.
Worker safety has also suffered. The number of injuries increased 21% in 2018 and 2019 compared with the previous two-year period of 2016 and 2017.
This is concerning because the number of offshore injuries was actually decreasing between 2015 and 2017 — but there was a dramatic uptick in 2018. In 2019, there were more offshore drilling rig deaths than in the previous 5 years combined.
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