U.S. senators introduce legislation to protect coasts from oil spills

U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Patty Murray have introduced the Clean Coast Act to protect American coasts from catastrophic oil spills.

The legislation codifies rules that were finalized by the Department of the Interior in 2016 to address key safety recommendations made after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The Clean Cost Act is co-sponsored by Democrat U.S. Senators Ed Markey, Robert Menendez, Chris Van Hollen, Sheldon Whitehouse, Ron Wyden, Jeanne Shaheen, Cory Booker, Jack Reed, Bill Nelson, Jeff Merkley, Tom Carper, Richard Blumenthal, Maggie Hassan, Kamala Harris, and Dianne Feinstein as well as independent Senator Bernie Sanders.

The introduction of the legislation came on Thursday, ahead of the eighth anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill on Friday, April 20, 2018. The Deepwater Horizon incident resulted in the deaths of 11 members of the crew and the injury of 17 others.

As a result of the explosion, oil spewed into the ocean for nearly three months, resulting in the largest offshore oil spill disaster in the history of the United States.

Senator Cantwell said: “President Trump has ordered the rollback of common sense solutions to improve safety and prevent oil spills. Friday marks the eighth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and today I have introduced legislation to prevent tragedies like that from happening again.”

Senator Murray added: “Communities in Washington state and across the country who depend on our healthy coasts for their food, recreation, and livelihood would be devastated by an event like the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, and President Trump’s move to reverse rules that help keep people safe and protect our ecosystem against such disasters is a huge step in the wrong direction.”

In April 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13795, “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” directing the Department of the Interior to reconsider the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule and the Arctic Drilling Rule to encourage and prioritize oil and gas exploration and production.

According to Senator Cantwell, the Clean Coast Act codifies the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule includes safeguards like minimum requirements for the design, manufacture, repair, and maintenance of blowout preventers; dual shear rams for deepwater blowout preventers; real-time monitoring capability for high-risk drilling activities; and criteria for safe drilling margins consistent with recommendations arising out of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

It also codifies the Arctic Drilling Rule which includes safeguards for drilling activities in the U.S. Arctic Outer Continental Shelf, such as requiring access to appropriate containment and response equipment; ability to drill a relief well within the same season; and capability to predict and respond to ice conditions and adverse weather.

The Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule was finalized in April 2016 while the Arctic Drilling Rule was finalized in July 2016.

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