Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Slams “Reckless” Offshore Drilling Rule

Oct 2, 2018
Press Release

Co-Sponsors Bill to Protect Florida Coastline

New Trump Administration Plan Weakens Oil & Gas Safety Rules

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan announced today he has co-sponsored legislation to overturn a new Interior Department rule that would substantially weaken oil rig protections enacted after the Gulf Coast oil spill. 

“It would be a monumental mistake to lift these safeguards,“ said Buchanan, a longtime opponent of drilling off Florida’s coast. “The last thing we need after suffering through the devastating impact of red tide is to open the door to another catastrophic oil spill.”

The Interior Department on Friday said that after months of review, it has decided to lift safety rules enacted during the Obama administration after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf Coast, one of the worst environmental catastrophe in the nation’s history. 

Buchanan today co-sponsored the Safe COAST Act (H.R. 4888) to prohibit Interior’s plan from taking effect. The bill would codify in law the Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems rule as well as the Well Control rule, which was implemented after the fatal 2010 disaster based on recommendations by a bipartisan national commission. These regulations ensure protections for worker safety, the environment and coastal communities.

“We don’t need to risk another massive oil spill that could cause irreparable harm to Florida’s economy and environment,” Buchanan said in announcing his co-sponsorship. “We need to protect the pristine ocean waters off Florida’s coasts.”

The Interior Department’s proposal to weaken the Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems Rule was first unveiled at the end of 2017. Last Friday, the Interior Department officially published its final rule in the Federal Register, which pending no further action is set to take effect on Dec. 27, 2018.

Buchanan opposed the initial proposal to loosen safety regulations and sent a formal objection letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke back in January. Buchanan called the plan “reckless and unacceptable,” warning that experts believe we are still years, if not decades, away from fully understanding the extent of the damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

Miyoko Sakishima, director of the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that department’s initial proposal “will put our coasts and wildlife at risk of more deadly oil spills.” Sakishima went on to say that this “isn’t just deregulation, it’s willful ignorance.”

Some of the most noteworthy and egregious provisions of the finalized plan include:

  • Lifting the requirement that third party auditors confirm that safety and pollution prevention equipment works under extreme conditions, including high pressure drilling in undersea wells which contributed to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout.
  • Eliminating the requirement that professional engineers certify the safety of the design of some offshore drilling equipment for new wells.
  • Removing a requirement for oil companies to receive independent verification of safety measures used on offshore platforms.

The Congressman also took issue with the department’s claim that that the safeguards presented “potentially unduly burdensome requirements” to the oil industry. “If these safeguards are so burdensome then why is the oil industry enjoying record profits,” Buchanan asked. “The U.S. is currently producing over 11 million barrels of oil per day – a level we have not reached since the 1970s, rivaling the world’s top producers, Russia and Saudi Arabia.”

Buchanan added, “My constituents were severely impacted by the Deepwater Horizon spill, and we strongly oppose any effort to weaken these common-sense regulations that protect against another oil spill off the coast of Florida.”

Buchanan is a longtime opponent of offshore drilling off Florida’s coastline. He is the co-author of the bipartisan Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act to extend by five years a ban on oil drilling off much of Florida’s Gulf coast until 2027. The current moratorium is set to expire in June of 2022. 

As co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, earlier this year Buchanan led a letter from a bipartisan group of 21 Florida congressmen opposed to any rollback of safety regulations adopted after the fatal Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010.

Buchanan also opposed an Interior Department plan to expand offshore drilling operations off the coast of Florida including in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

One of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history for which oil giants BP, Halliburton and Transocean were found negligent, the Deepwater Horizon spill spewed more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, claimed the lives of 11 workers, decimated the region’s iconic wildlife and severely damaged our fishing and tourism industries.