Obama Proposes New Regulations on Offshore Drilling

Earlier this week, the Obama administration proposed a set of new rules for offshore drilling, nearly five years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed regulations come from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and are improvements to rules and notices that were issued immediately following the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

“These proposed measures are designed to further build on critical lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and to ensure that offshore operations are safe,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “This rule builds on enhanced industry standards for blowout preventers to comprehensively address well design, well control and overall drilling safety.”

The proposed rule targets the reliability of the equipment, in particular the blowout preventer, which failed to seal and control the oil well during the Deepwater Horizon spill. Among other things, the proposed rule will:

  • Incorporate the latest industry standards that establish minimum baseline requirements for the design, manufacture, repair, and maintenance of blowout preventers (BOP).
  • Require more controls over the maintenance and repair of BOPs.
  • Require more rigorous third party certification of the shearing capability of BOPs.
  • Request comments on a potential long-term requirement that a technology be installed to allow all equipment in the hole to be severed.
  • Require real-time monitoring capability for deepwater and high-temperature/high- pressure drilling activities.
  • Require the use of accepted engineering principles and establishes general performance criteria for drilling and completion equipment.

The rules are now open for public comment and are expected to be issued later this year. Following the issue of the final rule, oil and gas companies will have three to seven years to completely comply with the rule.

“Deepwater Horizon was the biggest environmental disaster in American history, and the Department of the Interior has rightly implemented the most significant safety reforms ever undertaken,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, director of public lands at the Center for American Progress, adding that the federal government “is making these safety improvements with no help from Congress and, all too often, resistance from an oil industry that wants to keep its costs low.”

To view the fact sheet for the proposed rules, click here.

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