Will Trump’s Move to Expand Offshore Drilling Compromise Worker Safety?

Moves by the Trump administration last week to reopen offshore drilling off the California coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico are being heralded by many in the oil and gas industry as providing a more favorable competitive landscape for U.S. energy providers, but with this new opportunity comes the potential for workers to be harmed.

The proposals are being viewed largely through a bipartisan lens, seen as essential to meeting the country’s energy needs domestically and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign governments—but also viewed as alarming to those who contend the move will compromise worker safety and the environment. The plans announced last week would open more than 40 sites for leasing of natural gas and oil production, and have the potential to open nearly all federally protected waters to new drilling, according to CNN and other media outlets.

The move comes in tandem with a separate announcement that the Trump administration is working to revise safety rules enacted in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill on the grounds that they are overly burdensome on U.S. industry. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the federal agency charged with improving safety and ensuring environmental protection related to the offshore energy industry, plans to publish new regulations for production-safety systems and well control devices, both enacted to prevent the type of blowout that killed 11 Deepwater Horizon workers.

Stevenson & Murray was involved in several cases resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, now considered the worst oil spill in U.S. history—so any moves that might walk back safety measures enacted in the wake of Deepwater Horizon are troubling.

Mark Murray, a partner of Stevenson & Murray with long experience in oil and gas industry, Jones Act law and maritime worker advocacy, says no matter where people land politically on these complex issues, expanded offshore drilling could have long-term implications for the maritime and Jones Act workers employed on the offshore platforms, barges, docks and shipping vessels that support the offshore drilling and downstream production.

“Port cities like Houston, New Orleans, Lake Jackson, Tampa and Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Los Angeles and San Francisco might stand to benefit from added jobs and economic boosts of the new provisions, but worker rights and safety cannot be compromised in the industry’s rush to begin drilling operations,” Murray says. “We regularly see companies cutting corners on safety with devastating effects on workers employed up and down these industries, from employees on the offshore platforms themselves to dock workers stateside, to the custodial workers and catering staff who sustain injuries on the job.”

Even with a landscape favorable for the energy industry in general and drillers in particular, the exact effects of Trump’s plans remain to be seen. Industry experts note huge infrastructure investment costs, almost-certain environmental and legal challenges, and uncertain oil prices will all be in play to challenge would-be drillers.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a maritime, Jones Act, oil and gas industry or any worker safety case, you need a lawyer with deep experience in these complex cases. Call our team today for a no-obligation consultation.

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