Democrat presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations despite alleged staff objections

Democrat presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations despite alleged staff objections
© Greg Nash

Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) on Tuesday pressed Trump official Scott Angelle over whether Angelle pushed for a rollback of safety regulations despite objections from career officials.

His questions follow a Wall Street Journal report that said staff engineers had called for no changes to a two-week testing requirement for devices used to prevent oil well blowouts. 

The report said Angelle, who leads the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, instead adopted an industry-preferred three-week testing requirement. 

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“Did the career staff at your agency send you a decision memo recommending that the testing frequency stay at two weeks?” Levin asked at a Tuesday House Natural Resources Committee hearing. 

“What I believe I received, sir, was a variety of options that were not ready and ripe for presentation,” Angelle responded. 

“Did you call one of the engineers working on that memo and tell them to remove that recommendation for two weeks from the memo?” Levin followed up.

“I have no recollection of instructing anybody to remove a recommendation. I do have a recollection of saying that the recommendation was not ripe because the team had received an assignment and they had not yet fulfilled that assignment,” Angelle replied. 

After Angelle told Levin that he was the intended recipient of the memo, the lawmaker responded, “So you had the staff edit a memo that was going to you so it would not look like they were recommending what you didn’t want them to recommend.”

“Incorrect,” Angelle said. “The public policy rulemaking requires a robust discussion, and to have recommendations that are not yet fully developed seems to be premature.”

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The rule in question was put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 people and left millions of gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.

Documents reviewed by the Journal showed that career employees wanted “no change to the testing frequency” of safety equipment. 

Following the exchange with the Trump administration official and his House colleague, Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesOvernight Energy: Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill | White House weighs help for oil, gas industry | Dem presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations Democrat presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations despite alleged staff objections Overnight Energy: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative MORE (R-La.) said Tuesday that he was “offended” by the line of questioning. 

“When we talk about safety and we talk about the threat to our environment, this isn’t some nameless, faceless person. This isn’t some random area. These are Scott’s relatives. These are his neighbors. These are his friends and mine,” Graves said, referencing Angelle’s past work in Louisiana. 

“To allege that he would threaten the lives and safety of people that are his relatives, his friends and neighbors, is just wrong,” the lawmaker added.