Fearing Environmental Disaster, Big Oil Wants Trump to Slow Regulation Rollback

Flames rise from the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard/Getty Images

President Trump took office with a promise, laid out in his “America First Energy Plan,” to eliminate “burdensome regulations” on the oil and gas industry, a move that he said would bring cheaper gas and more jobs to the American people.

Now, as changes to those regulations are beginning to take shape, an unexpected voice has emerged to tell Trump to slow down — the oil industry itself. Politico reports:

Publicly, petroleum companies and their trade groups are cheering Trump’s efforts to undo former President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations, including restrictions on fracking-related pollution, pipeline permits and offshore drilling. But quietly, people in the industry are growing worried that deregulation could backfire on them, according to interviews with a dozen executives, lobbyists, lawyers and analysts.

Among the biggest fears inside the industry is that the loosening of standards will lead to another disaster like BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 crewmembers aboard the rig in 2010 and pumped nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s worth noting that the ExxonMobils and Shells of the world aren’t afraid of another oil spill because they’re worried about the coral and the guppies. Rather, they know the damage these disasters do to the industry’s image and they’re loathe to relive 2010.

“It’s not helpful if regulations are streamlined so as to allow something to happen — say, a methane explosion or a spill — and we’d be painted with it as an entire industry,” an anonymous oil-company employee told Politico.

The opposition to the Trump administration’s zeal for removing oil and gas regulations appears to be confined to the largest multinationals. These are the companies that have already spent millions to comply with Obama-era regulations, which gives them an advantage over smaller firms scrapping to catch up.

The split between how big and small oil companies perceive this change mirrors the differences in how they reacted to Trump’s scrapping of the Paris climate accord. While companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP urged Trump to remain in the agreement, smaller companies without international operations wanted out. As a lobbyist told the Houston Chronicle in May, for these firms, climate change is a “non-issue.” No wonder the oil giants are afraid of what damage they’ll do.

Big Oil Wants Trump to Slow Regulation Rollback