Trump Re-Examines Regulations Regarding Fracking, Oil Drilling

Jan 1, 2018
Originally published on January 1, 2018 7:56 am
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Safety regulations around offshore oil drilling and fracking are on the retreat. The Trump administration is considering relaxing safety requirements on offshore oil drilling. The current rules were put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. And the White House is also rescinding rules that were proposed for fracking. The rule changes happening now are what the industry has lobbied for. And here to talk about all of this is Alisa Barba. She's the executive editor of Inside Energy, a group of public media reporters focused on the country's energy issues. Hey, Alisa.

ALISA BARBA: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: Let's start with offshore oil drilling. These were rules that were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill. How were they meant to prevent another huge spill like that?

BARBA: It was kind of a five-year process after Deepwater Horizon that they looked at what had happened and they looked at ways to prevent something like this. So a couple of different things they put into place - they formed this new regulatory group called the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the BSEE, under the Department of the Interior. The BSEE was supposed to certify third-party inspectors of critical equipment offshore. Now they're going to use some industry-set recommendations - recommended practices instead of these third-party inspectors. That was really the big thing. Another rule that was relaxed is the streaming data from offshore oil facilities to onshore offices there.

CHANG: And that's - you mean they were sending data in real time about some of these...

BARBA: Exactly. What was going on offshore, real time data going onshore - all of this was expensive. This was burdensome, the industry said - and so that those are going to be relaxed. This is all part of - back in March the Trump administration issued an order that said, we need to review every single regulatory action that puts a burden on energy production. So it's under that rubric that these rules are being relaxed.

CHANG: What's the time frame for these rule changes about oil drilling?

BARBA: About offshore oil drilling?

CHANG: Yeah.

BARBA: It was published in the Federal Register on Friday. And there will be a 30-day comment period.

CHANG: Let's turn to fracking now. There were rules on the books under President Obama that would have required companies to disclose the chemicals they use in fracking. What's happening to those rules?

BARBA: It's a BLM, Bureau of Land Management, rule that was proposed back in September, I believe, of 2015. But they were immediately sued by industry groups and by four different states. And they were put on hold because of that lawsuit. So they've never gone into effect. This was for fracking on federal and tribal lands, disclosing the chemicals - the very toxic mix cocktail of chemicals that goes into fracking - setting some standards for how wells are constructed and also environmental rules for protecting the kind of produced fluid that comes up after fracking takes place. So this was all about groundwater protection.

CHANG: The argument from industry groups, though, is that a lot of these federal rules duplicated state rules. So, in essence, they created extra work, extra costs that were unnecessary. How correct are they?

BARBA: In Colorado, in Wyoming, two of the four states that sued to overturn this rule - there are rules in place that do very similar things that the federal rules did. But there are other states that do not have rules in place. So people concerned about fracking would argue that you need a federal rule oversight that would cover every single state and make some kind of uniformity to increase the safety of the fracking.

CHANG: All right. That's Alisa Barba, executive director of Inside Energy. Thank You, Alisa.

BARBA: Thank you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.