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Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations

Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations
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The Trump administration is pushing ahead with a last-minute attempt to ease safety regulations for offshore drilling in the Arctic.

The proposal would roll back a number of regulations that were put in place specifically for the Arctic following the disastrous Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

“It cites the unique condition in the Arctic as reasons to be relaxing the rules when it should be just the opposite. They shouldn’t be allowing drilling at all in Arctic — it’s too dangerous — but if it’s going to occurring at all it should procure under heightened safety standards not relaxed ones,” said Kristin Monsell with the Center for Biodiversity. 

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Environmentalists warn it would be nearly impossible to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic.

“The regulations were aimed at requiring operating procedures that would better guard against an uncontrolled oil spill like the Gulf spill, because if such a spill happened in the remote, ice-covered, stormy Arctic, it could not be cleaned up and would be even worse than in the temperate, infrastructure-adjacent waters of the Gulf,” Erik Grafe with Earthjustice said in a statement to The Hill. 

The rule has little chance of being finalized. It faces a 60-day comment period after which the Department of the Interior must respond to comments before issuing a final rule.

That would put the onus on the incoming Biden administration to withdraw the rule — something the administration would need to justify, which Monsell said would be easy enough given conditions in the arctic.

Still, others say the rule shows the types of policies the outgoing Trump administration may have in mind if President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE seeks another term in the future.

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“This is an obvious play to add to the environmental rollbacks that the Trump team has sought and that the incoming Biden administration will have to roll up its sleeves to fix. And it’s a useful reminder as Trump looks toward 2024 that no administration has been worse for our environment or our nation’s public health than this one,” Leah Donahey with the Alaska Wilderness League said in a statement.

The Trump administration argues the rule is necessary to push back against Russian interest in the region.

“As countries like Russia increase their presence in the Arctic — including the use of U.S. technologies to develop their seabed resources, it is increasingly important to ensure that the United States has a strong presence in the Arctic,” Interior Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor said in a release.

The Trump administration has pushed forward numerous efforts to ease offshore drilling regulations, from working to reverse Arctic protections set in place under the Obama administration to rolling back other safety provisions put into place after Deepwater.