Will safety rules on oil drilling stand up in court after Scott Angelle’s changes?

Scott Angelle (Photography by The Associated Press/Gerald Herbert)

As the offshore oil industry’s federal regulator completed its overhaul of a major well-drilling safety rule in 2018, the agency’s director, Louisiana native Scott Angelle reportedly asked staff engineers to make changes in the rules memos that contradicted the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s own guidance.

According to email and memos reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Angelle, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, allegedly ignored input from engineers as the safety regulation overhaul was created.

The bureau’s decision memos are intended to show how regulations morph over time into their final state, but in regard to the rule overhaul, changes ordered personally by Angelle were shown in the documentation without noting it was Angelle who requested them.

The internal correspondence could prove a liability for the federal regulator, the newspaper reports, as environmental groups are currently challenging the agency’s rationale for its decision in courts.

“What these communications show is that the agency was not relying on expertise,” says Richard Revesz, dean emeritus of New York University School of Law and an expert on environmental and regulatory legal matters. “It was making a political decision that went against the advice of the experts and the experts were being sidelined.”

A spokesman for Angelle, however, says the rule changes were handled properly. Read the full story.