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Trump Administration Looks to Roll Back Offshore Regs

Thursday, January 4, 2018

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The federal government is moving to repeal some regulations placed on offshore drilling by the administration of former President Barack Obama in the years following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement—established in 2011 under the Department of the Interior to oversee offshore operations—submitted a proposal on Dec. 28 that would see safety regulations cut in response to President Donald J. Trump’s call earlier in the year to “reduce undue burden on industry.”

Offshore platform
© iStock.com / Rob_Ellis

Changes proposed by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement would repeal or revise some provisions of the Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems rule, largely put into place in November 2016.

The BSEE says the proposed regulation rollbacks will remove unnecessary burdens on producers while “maintaining or advancing the level of safety and environmental protection.” The moves, set out in a proposed rule published in the Federal Register, would repeal or revise some provisions of the Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems rule, largely put into place in November 2016.

Revisions, Definition Changes

The changes include revisions to the requirement that safety and pollution prevention equipment (SPPE) be tested by a third party to ensure it will perform under the most extreme conditions to which it may be exposed. The BSEE says that it may be impossible in some cases for certain SPPE to be certified to this extreme, and that other standards in the rule ensure that the equipment will perform the function it is designed to fulfill.

The proposal also involves changes to the definitions of SPPE that are subject to mandatory failure reports.

Deepwater Horizon
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Stumberg / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Sierra Club noted that the regulations that are subject to change were enacted in direct reaction to Deepwater Horizon, the world’s largest oil spill, which killed 11 workers and came with an overall cleanup cost of about $62 billion.

The BSEE said in a press release that the changes, if adopted, will save the offshore oil and gas industry $228 million over the next decade.

The proposal is now in its public comment period, which ends Jan. 29.

Industry, Environmental Response

The National Ocean Industries Association, which represents the industry, applauded the proposal and the opportunity it affords stakeholders to express their opinions on the offshore regulations.

“This ‘second bite at the apple’ provides an opportunity for further dialogue, discussion and debate to assure the nation’s offshore energy resources are developed safely and expeditiously—as required by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act,” NOIA president Randall Luthi said in a statement. “NOIA members also look forward to commenting on other important offshore rules currently under revision.”

Environmentalists disagree, however. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune issued a statement in the wake of the announcement, reading in part, “Oil wells and pipelines fail in dramatic and tragic ways, and it’s wrong to make it easier to fail. Trump would rather throw the lives and livelihoods of the people who voted for him under the bus than do anything that would displease the dirty polluters that make up his true base.”

The Sierra Club noted that the regulations that are subject to change were enacted in direct reaction to Deepwater Horizon, the world’s largest oil spill, which killed 11 workers and came with an overall cleanup cost of about $62 billion.

   

Tagged categories: Department of the Interior; Government; Offshore; Oil and Gas; Regulations; Safety

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