They say that those who forget history are forced to repeat it. But when it comes to workplace and environmental disasters, that’s not exactly true. Because while the politicians and their corporate supporters are doing the forgetting, it is the workers, the environment and surrounding communities that ultimately pay the price when the inevitable — and preventable — tragedies come home to roost.
In the Spring and Summer of 2010 this nation learned a lot about the high cost of offshore oil drilling and lax regulation. And the nation would pay that price in 11 workplace deaths on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and the largest oil spill in the history of the world. The lessons learned about how to prevent such disasters in the future were soon written into regulations issued by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, headed by former federal prosecutor Michael R. Bromwich.
Now, not even 8 years after the Deepwater disaster, the New York Times reports in an exhaustive investigative piece that that same agency is headed by Scott Angelle. Angelle, who has a history of financial ties to the drilling industry, has made it his mission to roll back those protections in order to increase oil production. A former Louisiana Attorney General, Angelle ran unsuccessfully for Governor as a friend and supporter of the drilling industry. His stripes have not changed, according to the Times:
His job was new, but his message was familiar: How can I help your companies thrive? In addition to safety enforcement, he made it clear that he viewed his role as helping the industry grow. “One of the things that we want to do is help unlock the next wave of investment into the Gulf of Mexico,” he said at the time. “That is what we want to do.”
“These regulations were written with human blood” — Lillian Espinoza-Gala
As Bromwich says, “This is a safety and environmental protection agency. It is not part of the agency’s mission or mandate to increase production of oil or gas. That is inappropriate.”
Inappropriate — and deadly for the workers, environment and surrounding communities:
“These regulations were written with human blood,” said Lillian Espinoza-Gala, a former offshore worker who now serves as an industry safety consultant and opposes easing protections. “The only way we can honor those who lost their lives is for us to learn how to do this in the correct way.”
And the beneficiaries are Angelle’s friends and supporters throughout his career: the independent drilling companies, many of whom have the worst safety and health records in the industry. The good news — for his friends — is that “agency documents suggest moves he has already made could save the industry more than $1.3 billion in compliance costs over the next decade.” The bad news is that many of the beneficiaries of the Trump Administration’s gifts have also been cited for huge numbers of safety violations, fires, explosions and millions of dollars in fines.
Of course, none of this should be surprising for those who follow this Administration’s mission to “deconstruct the regulatory state,”as the late, great Steve Bannon characterized it. What this means to workers and the environment, is getting rid of the protections that were “written in human blood,” and unlearning the lessons that many have suffered and died for.
“And for what? For a little bit of money,” in the words of Fargo’s Marge Gunderson.
You can read the entire New York Times article here.