The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

It seemed to be yet another aggressive Trump administration effort to tear up any and all environmental protections: The Interior Department released last Thursday new rules on oil and gas drilling, relaxing regulations that the Obama administration developed following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.

Indeed, freshly confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, was wrong when he claimed his department’s new plan merely “eliminates unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protection offshore.” Yet the Interior Department’s move does not represent a totally unhinged deregulatory push, either. It is more of a mixed picture than many Trump administration environmental rollbacks.

The Obama administration rules came after an exhaustive analysis from a blue-ribbon commission, which found lax oversight and inadequate safety standards on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that contributed to a massive well blowout, 11 deaths and a three-month saga in which 4 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department assures that it is changing only about 20 percent of these post-disaster rules, because new technologies and industry practices justify revisions. It was not lost on critics that the changes would also save oil companies about $1 billion over 10 years.

Some of the rule changes seem warranted. One accommodates better technology on centering the “shear rams” that close off wells in case of emergency. In other cases, Interior refused to shift rules that the industry dislikes. For example, though drillers would have liked to see changes in requirements on the drilling mud required to keep well pressure at safe levels, the Trump administration declined to alter the default requirements and instead decided to streamline the process for getting exceptions approved. Another key decision was to keep in place requirements that blowout preventers, key safety devices, have two shear rams fully capable of closing off a dangerous well, a measure that might have prevented the Deepwater Horizon fiasco.

Yet Interior’s deregulatory push still went much too far. It would rely too much on industry-set standards. Proposed wording changes appear to water down safety requirements. And the old Obama rules would have required drillers to have their wells inspected by experts that the federal government had certified. Given the chummy atmosphere within the offshore drilling community, this measure was one designed to ensure ample professional oversight on oil rigs. “If I know I can lose my [federal] certification for falling short of those standards, or for shading my report to favor industry — in hopes of, for example, getting more industry work — I’m going to maintain standards like my job depends on it,” Bob Deans, a spokesman for the National Resources Defense Council, explained. Even so, the Interior Department is killing the regulation, replacing it with requirements that inspectors merely have certain credentials.

The Trump administration’s rewrite of offshore drilling rules could have been worse. But “could have been worse” is not the standard one should expect from federal agencies.