U.S. safety regulator proposes offshore overhaul

A "paradigm shift" is needed to ensure the United States can be an energy superpower, an offshore safety regulator said.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Dec. 28, 2017 at 9:59 AM
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Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. government opened a deregulation scheme for safety rules for oil and gas drillers in the Gulf of Mexico up for public comment on Thursday.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it would publish its proposed regulations on offshore drilling in the federal registry on Friday. Ahead of the filing, BSEE Director Scott Angelle said the deregulation was a result of an executive order calling for a reduction on any undue burdens for the industry.

"It's time for a paradigm shift in the way we regulate the outer continental shelf," Angelle said in a statement.

The BSEE's announcement followed a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to stop funding a study meant to find improvements in how inspections of offshore oil and gas operations are conducted.

BSEE requested the study in 2016 as part of a series carried out by the National Academies to review the causes of the fatal April 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which resulted in an 87-day-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP revealed the total cost associated with the 2010 accident at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was around $62 billion. Carl Barbier, the judge overseeing the case in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana, ruled BP released 3.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, about 1 million barrels less than the government estimated.

His ruling left BP facing a maximum $13.7 billion fine, down from the maximum $18 billion for violations of the Clean Water Act.

A cascading string of events led to what the industry calls a blowout, which triggered explosions on the rig that eventually left 11 workers dead and sparked the worst accidental offshore oil spill in the history of the industry.

Angelle said the ruling would leave safety measures in place, while at the same time ensuring the energy sector can meet Trump's goal of dominance. Lifting some regulatory burdens through the proposed amendments would reduce some costs for the industry by at least $228 million over 10 years, he said.

BP in October said it would start buying back shares during the fourth quarter, and the company said its $1.87 billion for the equivalent of net income was roughly twice as high as it was last year, he said.

"The proposed amendments address provisions of the regulations that create an unnecessary burden on operators, while providing the same level of safety and protection of the environment," Angelle added.

The public comment period ends 30 days after the notice is published.

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