Trump for­gets Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Opinion - By Fred Grimm

As if Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon never hap­pened.

Never mind 11 dead oil rig work­ers. For­get the 87 days that oil spewed un­abated from a rup­tured well­head 5000 feet be­low the sur­face. For­get the 22-mile plume of oil and chem­i­cal dis­per­sants, drift­ing like a toxic cloud in the Gulf of Mex­ico, cre­at­ing in­cal­cu­la­ble dam­age to ma­rine life and coast marsh­lands.

Well, not in­cal­cu­la­ble. Vir­ginia Tech economists as­sessed the value the pub­lic placed on the var­i­ous forms of ma­rine life wiped out by the 2010 dis­as­ter and came up with $17.2 bil­lion. That’s aside from bil­lions lost to the fish­ing and tourism economies. Or the $61 bil­lion BP paid out in fines and clean-up costs and repa­ra­tions for busi­ness losses.

Never mind the health con­se­quences, in­clud­ing chronic res­pi­ra­tory dif­fi­cul­ties, suf­fered by clean-up work­ers and res­i­dents in the coastal ar­eas where that strange red gook washed ashore. Some 12 mil­lion pounds were re­moved from beaches and tidal marshes along the Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi, Alabama and Florida coasts.

Yet, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, as part of its anti-reg­u­la­tory frenzy, has de­cided that the worst oil spill in the na­tion’s his­tory was not worth re­mem­ber­ing. The In­te­rior De­part­ment is dis­card­ing the off­shore drilling rig safety reg­u­la­tions adopted af­ter Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon to pre­vent an­other such blow-out. Mean­while, rather than wait for the cum­ber­some process it takes to undo fed­eral regs, Politico re­ported last week that In­te­rior has jumped ahead and is­sued an ex­tra­or­di­nary

1,679 ex­emp­tions to the safety rules.

Most of the ex­emp­tions al­lowed off­shore drilling com­pa­nies to by­pass reg­u­la­tions that tighten the main­te­nance and test­ing re­quire­ments for the so-called “blowout pre­ven­ters” that au­to­mat­i­cally cap a well­head in case of a rup­ture. Of course, the blowout pre­ven­ter on Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon failed spec­tac­u­larly.

It’s as if the dis­as­trous af­ter­math hardly mat­ters as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion erases reg­u­la­tions that fos­sil fuel op­er­a­tions find bur­den­some. Oil drillers want off­shore drilling rules re­laxed and Trump’s ap­pointees are there to serve.

Reg­u­la­tion roll­backs have be­come the very essence of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, al­most by de­fault af­ter stum­bling with other big ini­tia­tives, like the con­struc­tion of his fa­bled wall or the nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment of North Korea. Ac­cord­ing to the New York Times, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has tar­geted 78 en­vi­ron­men­tal rules cre­ated to pro­tect drink­ing wa­ter, con­trol toxic in­dus­trial emis­sions, limit green­house gases and pro­tect en­dan­gered species.

Trumps’ fevered anti-en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have at­tacked regs gov­ern­ing the dis­posal of coal ash waste. And the ar­senic, lead, mer­cury, se­le­nium, chromium and cad­mium that steam power plants spew into the at­mos­phere. They’ve stopped en­forc­ing the pro­hi­bi­tion against us­ing hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons (a par­tic­u­larly po­tent green­house gas) in air-con­di­tion­ers and re­frig­er­a­tors. They’ve un­done rules that re­quired states to mon­i­tor tailpipe ex­haust emis­sions and oil re­fin­ery pol­lu­tion.

Iron­i­cally, much of the en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion fo­mented by Trump anti-reg­u­la­tory regime will be borne by Trump coun­try. For ex­am­ple, coastal Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi, Alabama and the Florida Pan­han­dle – the very ar­eas most at risk for an­other Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon – en­com­pass some of Trump’s most fer­vent sup­port­ers.

It’s not the res­i­dents of lib­eral Broward County or Bos­ton or New York or Los An­ge­les who need to worry about an un­reg­u­lated coal ash pond next door or their chil­dren breath­ing in pol­luted air from a nearby chem­i­cal plant or strip min­ers spoil­ing the wa­ter. It’s not our work­ers who’ll be de­scend­ing into coal mines or onto oil rigs where safety pre­cau­tions are no longer a pri­or­ity for fed­eral in­spec­tors.

Not that the reg­u­la­tion roll­backs aren’t painful here­abouts. South Florida was ground zero in the shame­less for-profit col­lege scan­dals that left thou­sands of would-be stu­dents with sec­ond-rate ed­u­ca­tions, deep in debt, fac­ing dis­mal em­ploy­ment prospects. Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos has un­done safe­guards de­signed to pro­tect stu­dents from the mis­lead­ing and un­scrupu­lous tac­tics em­ployed by for-prof­its.

South Florida also has more than its share of en­dan­gered species, an­other genre that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion con­sid­ers sub­sidiary to the wants of cor­po­rate Amer­ica. And the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pre­tense that global warm­ing and ris­ing seas are lib­eral myths will surely leave us tread­ing wa­ter.

Of course, coastal com­mu­ni­ties in Trum­plov­ing South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama also face in­un­da­tion. But folks in those places sim­ply pre­tend oth­er­wise. And they shrug off the EPA’s own find­ings that ces­sa­tion of the pol­lu­tion rules for power plants will lead to 11,000 pre­ma­ture deaths,

4,700 heart at­tacks, 2,800 new cases of chronic bron­chi­tis, and 130,000 asthma at­tacks ev­ery year.

And if Trump’s sup­port­ers, be­tween cough­ing fits, can pre­tend that Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon never hap­pened, then why would they ever think to bur­den off­shore drillers with in­con­ve­nient safety regs.

Fred Grimm (@grim­m_fred or [email protected]), a long­time res­i­dent of Fort Laud­erdale, has worked as a jour­nal­ist in South Florida since 1976.

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