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Louisiana lays into White House over BP oil spill regs

By:  JOHN SICILIANO, Washington Examiner

 

The White House got an earful from Louisiana’s new Democratic governor during a sitdown meeting this week on expensive new rules proposed in response to the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gov. John Bel Edwards does not support the regulations, which he describes as ineffective and unnecessary and costing his state thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.

The Well Control Rule was proposed in April 2015, five years after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. The accident at the offshore oil rig killed nearly a dozen workers and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf from April to September 2010. It is considered the worst environmental accident at sea in the history of the petroleum industry.

Edwards sat down with the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday to make sure the Obama administration knows where one of the largest oil-producing states stands on the new rule. The rules are in the final stage of review before becoming effective before the end of the year.

Many believe the White House wants to get as many of its pending regulations completed before the end of summer to ensure they go into effect by the end of President Obama’s final year in office.

Edwards told Howard Shelanski, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, in a letter sent ahead of this week’s meeting, that he is “keenly aware of the devastating effects caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident,” but the rule should not be implemented now.

A big part of the Gulf region’s recovery after the spill had to do with Interior Department collaboration with the states and revising safety procedures and regulations to avoid another spill from happening, he said. However, he does not believe the rule fits into that same vein of past collaboration.

“Instead, [the Interior Department] has opted for highly prescriptive technical mandates that experts believe could fall short in practice in the offshore environment,” the governor said.

He pointed out that a study by consulting firm Wood Mackenzie shows that the rule would be economically devastating for the Gulf states over the next 15 years, cutting offshore drilling that would place tens of thousands of jobs at risk by 2030. It also would cost his state in vital tax revenue it receives from the oil and gas industry as well as cut federal revenue by $5 billion.

He reiterated his commitment to ensuring another disaster like the Deepwater Horizon never happens again, but was adamant that the current version of the new rules is not the best way to address safety.

“Louisiana can ill afford yet another blow to an industry that constitutes such an important part of our state’s economy,” he said. “We strongly believe that the Well Control Rule as drafted is simply not yet ready for implementation.”

Members of the Louisiana delegation this week also began pressing House appropriators to defund the Interior Department’s implementation of the new rules.

Republican Reps. Charles Boustany and Garret Graves co-wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, calling on the panel to prohibit the funds.