How little, if anything, this country seems to have learned from the environmental, economic and just plain human disaster that was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill some seven years ago. For now the regulators have become deregulators in the spirit of these Trumpian times. Donald and the Trumpettes seem unable to perceive where they are headed: a repeat of a disaster that should not have been allowed to happen in the first place.
Do you think these deregulators are just plain ineducable? More likely they're blinded by all the money that the oil and gas industry could add to its already substantial coffers by picking up some $900 million in literally filthy lucre. All it needs to do is go on despoiling the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent coastal areas.
Result: The oil industry is more than willing to risk staging a repeat of a disaster that captured the attention of the whole country not so long ago. This historically amnesiac country turns out to be deaf to more recent events too. It's an old, old story. A nation that doesn't learn from the past is condemned to repeat it. In this case, all too quickly.
A decent respect for fair-labeling laws would at least require that today's revamped Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement change its name to something more fitting the nefarious adventures it's up to these days. Like the Bureau of Environmental Endangerment. Among the changes for the worse that this government bureau is now reported considering would be to stop sharing data on oil-production activities to bases on shore, where they are now open to review by regulators -- as they should be.
The new system being proposed would also cut out the requirement that independent inspectors of equipment be duly certified. The blowout preventer that didn't prevent the blowout in the first Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is just waiting to blow again, unchecked by those who are supposed to check it out.
It gets worse. This proposed redo of the system that is supposed to safeguard the public interest in offshore drilling would let this current crop of deregulators cut out language now in the rules that would let the bureau withhold drilling permits if they're considered unsafe. All these Trumpian revisions to the current rules add up to a green light for those who would once again endanger the gulf and all the businesses, fisheries and plain people who rely on keeping its water as clean as possible.
Talk about false advertising. This federal bureaucracy claims it's going to deliver the best of both worlds, but seems out to deliver the worst. "By reducing the regulatory burden on industry," these Trumpeteers claim, "we are encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production while maintaining a high bar for safety and environmental sustainability."
The whole statement out of Washington is written in the kind of jargon that's a sure sign of another sellout of the public interest to the purely private one.
When the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement was created after the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that left 11 workers dead and wildlife drenched in oil, the bureau wisely followed the Madisonian principle of separation of powers. The more power a government agency exercises, the greater the need to divide it, so that one part of this political and economic juggernaut can check the others. Instead, they're all being combined.
At its wholesome beginning, this federal agency was never supposed to boost oil and gas production, but protect gulf waters. To quote Michael Bromwich, the former federal prosecutor who helped reorganize the BSEE after the Deepwater Horizon disaster: "BSEE's mission is not to expand domestic production. This has been a sea change in BSEE's direction, away from careful, prudent regulation and toward being a compliant cheerleader for industry."
How long, one wonders, before the cheers turn into boos? For if there is anything we learn from history, it's how little we learn from history. To quote one now former federal official, "This is literally going back to business as usual." Dirty business as usual. Stand back, Americans. And wait for the next blowout in the gulf's waters to make all too familiar headlines.
(Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His e-mail address is email@example.com.)