Offshore oil rigs are among the most dangerous places to work. The roughnecks who work on the rigs are often dealing with heavy objects, high pressures, suspended weights, oil, grease, heat, water—everything that makes for a difficult work environment. Then they do it in an often isolated environment, frequently under the kind of pressure that comes from a tight schedule.
So safety rules on rigs are especially important, and especially strict. Except … not any more. Because Scott Angelle, a Louisiana state commissioner who Donald Trump put in charge of the entire Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, overhauled those rules to put profits ahead of safety. And when engineers on his staff pointed out the problems, he took action—to cover up their complaints.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, Angelle made changes that included reducing the need for oil companies to test critical safety gear. Even more frightening, Angelle changed rules that had been put in place following the BP disaster and required close supervision of the pressure at the well head. Instead Angelle, who the Journal describes as “a friend of the oil industry,” adopted wholesale new safety proposals that had come from the industry itself.
Angelle made these changes over the objections of the agency’s own engineering staff, who dutifully recorded their objections to the changes on memos that were prepared as part of the process of proposing those new measures. But Angelle wasn’t happy to see that his own engineers objected to the industry proposals.
And he addressed this in the most straightforward way: He called one of the engineers and had him delete the objections from the memos. The proposals were then sent along, with no indication that anyone at Angelle’s agency had objected to the eased safety regulations. Trump then championed the changes as lightening the burden of regulations on the oil industry, one of the “wins” he counted when listing the top accomplishments of his first three years in office.
Environmental groups have pointed out repeatedly that the weakened rules don’t just threaten well workers, but open up the possibility of exactly the kind of disaster that the post-BP rules were created to address. In fact, the new rules are little more than an absolute reversal back to the rules that were in place when the Deepwater Horizon exploded. One of the engineers within the safety agency was upset enough to send the Journal the original memos, showing the language that had been excised by Angelle.
Discovering that they had been caught in covering up their cover-up generated a predictable response: a complaint from an Angelle spokesperson about “leaked documents.” Because it’s never a crime if you hide all the evidence. Just look at Trump.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.