On Monday, as we predicted, the Obama administration blinked on deepwater oil and gas development, clearing the way for 16 deepwater projects to resume without environmental review. Though the administration says that the projects must be managed under new safety regulations, those regulations include no material redesign of well control or safety systems. While the improved rules and third party certification of safety devices are good things, these certifications will be performed on equipment that is documented to have high failure rates.
As many development permits have been languishing in the BOEMRE while the agency scrambles to implement new rules and review, the industry, as well as Gulf Coast politicians, have been relentlessly lobbying to get back to work in the deepwater to preserve jobs. I clearly understand that desire to get back to work, but we are once again risking workers' lives and the Gulf eco-system without a full rethinking/redesign of how we drill in deepwater.
As I've talked about before, this is just one more step in a creeping return to deepwater without substantial reform. The new Republican house will be no help, so the Obama administration is on its own defending itself against withering criticism.
And he will continue to blink.
Bob Cavnar, a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, is the author of Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, recently released by Chelsea Green Publishing Company.