Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Don’t loosen safety regulations on offshore drilling

Scientists are still years if not decades away from fully understanding the extent of the damage from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But already, the Trump administration is maneuvering to loosen the safety regulations methodically put in place after the worst oil spill in American history. This is a risky, unnecessary step that all Florida lawmakers should oppose.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the federal agency that oversees oil and gas drilling, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, proposed scaling back some safety measures the industry says are burdensome. If approved, the measure would repeal a requirement that the agency certify third-party inspectors of equipment, including blowout preventers, a critical last line of defense that failed in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the gulf. The explosion on the rig killed 11 workers, sent millions of barrels of oil gushing into the gulf and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.

The proposal would also relax requirements that companies stream real-time oil production data to onshore facilities that regulators could review. While the government would retain a standard dictating how much pressure companies would need to maintain while drilling a well, the agency wants to eliminate the term "safe" from a section of the rule. The industry argues the term "safe" is moot given that modern safety practices already accommodate that goal. If the changes take effect, they could save the industry more than $900 million over a decade.

The agencyís justification, according to the Journal, is that the Obama administrationís post-Deepwater reforms failed to account for how the industry adapted after the disaster. That baseless argument is premature at best. The federal government still doesnít have a full picture of the environmental damage to the gulf. Federal officials spent years under Obama working with the industry on improving offshore safety practices and emergency response, but those plans largely are untested, and the Deepwater tragedy exposed the gap between safety plans that exist on paper and how they perform in the real world.

The harsh and unpredictable environment a mile under the sea requires that drilling standards put safety first. These revisions would not only curtail the governmentís role in enforcing reasonable safety standards, but reduce the level of corporate accountability in an operation that involves an ever-evolving mix of contractors and subcontractors alike. The post-Deepwater reforms were also intended to plug a serious hole by creating a culture where platform operators, corporate managers and federal regulators improved their communications and worked more as a team. But these changes return an honor system to an industry with a bad history of self-policing, and they would keep government more in the dark about an operation that is inherently dangerous.

This rollback in safety was widely expected after President Donald Trump in April ordered the BSEEís parent agency, the Interior Department, to consider repealing "regulations that slow job creation." And it comes as the BSEE has halted an independent scientific study of offshore oil inspections that was established after the BP spill. Given the risks to Florida of drilling in the gulf, state leaders in both parties need to oppose the administrationís move and work with Congress to codify more of these safety reforms into law. If there is any lesson from the BP disaster, itís the price the nation is forced to pay by short-cutting on safety. If the administration doesnít get it, then Congress and the state of Florida must be heard.

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Editorial: Florence shows why flood insurance must be fixed

Editorial: Florence shows why flood insurance must be fixed

The floodwaters have been still rising in North Carolina, more than a week after Hurricane Florence swept through the state. The storm continues to wreak havoc in areas where fewer than 1 in 10 homeowners have flood insurance, underscoring the need f...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Tuesday’s letters: Amendment 4 is a matter of reason

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Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: DeSantis, Scott send mixed messages on oil drilling

Editorial: DeSantis, Scott send mixed messages on oil drilling

Every candidate for federal and state office in Florida should be unequivocal in opposing oil drilling off the coast and crystal clear in supporting a permanent extension to the federal ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. But the Republica...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18