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Regan Nelson’s Blog

House Republican Leadership Looks To Prevent Rules That Save Lives

Regan Nelson

Posted July 17, 2012 in Reviving the World's Oceans, U.S. Law and Policy

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The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote next week on the “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act" (H.R. 4078) – a bill that, among other things, imposes a moratorium on issuing virtually any new regulations as long as unemployment remains above 6%, regardless of the substance of such regulations or support for them.  Improving the safety of blowout preventers - the device which is intended to stop oil spills in our oceans - is just one example of a standard that would be blocked by this bill.

It is with sadness that we remember the eleven lives that were tragically lost when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank into the deep recesses of the Gulf.  At the time, members of Congress promised they would do whatever it took to ensure such a tragic event was never repeated.

While the investigations into what went terribly wrong that spring evening in April, 2010, found myriad contributing factors - including the lack of safety culture among industry operators, and a too-cozy relationship between government regulators and industry -  it was a malfunction of the supposedly fail-safe blowout preventer that led directly to the explosion aboard the rig.

Blowout preventers are the last line of defense against a blowout.  When they fail, as the one on the Macondo Well did, horrific consequences follow. 

Since the Deepwater Horizon incident, the government has been working to identify how to improve the structural integrity of blowout preventers in order to keep them from malfunctioning and leading to the loss of additional life.  This coming September, the Department of the Interior is prepared to offer proposed new regulations governing blowout preventers.  These regulations are intended to save lives, and to decrease the chances of another Gulf oil disaster event from happening.

If H.R. 4078 becomes law, the Interior Department’s new regulatory process will be stopped in its tracks.  In the meantime, men and women will continue to work aboard rigs with blowout preventers that we know are vulnerable to malfunction.

Congress has already failed to enact any new legislation to respond to the safety issues identified by the President’s National Oil Spill Commission.  But going the extra mile to keep the Administration from enacting safety rules is a level of irresponsibility and neglect that is beyond comprehension.  

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