No certification needed for offshore drilling safety, U.S. proposes

A federal safety regulator aims to do away with burdensome regulations that are getting in the way of President Trump's goal of U.S. energy dominance.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Dec. 29, 2017 at 7:29 AM
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Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Third parties will no longer need to verify whether some safety features for offshore oil and gas drilling work as designed, the U.S. government proposed.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement published a proposed change in the rules for offshore oil and gas 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.

In order to make the United States and energy superpower, Angelle said a "paradigm shift" was necessary for regulations regarding the outer continental shelf.

The proposal would amend parts of the oil and gas safety regulations so that, according to BSEE, the goal of U.S. President Donald Trump to ensure "energy dominance" is secured through the reduction of what it considered unnecessary burdens while at the same time advancing the level of safety.

Starting in 2010, the Interior Department, the parent agency for the BSEE, has issued rules on safety measures like the blowout preventer and well-casing pressures. Most of those rules were in force the day before Election Day 2016 and since then, the department said it found some of those provisions were "potentially unduly burdensome" and did little to actually improve safety or protect the environment.

Among the provisions, the department said it would remove the requirement for a third party to certify that certain safety devices are "designed to function in the most extreme conditions to which it will be exposed and that the device will function as designed."

The BSEE under former President Barack Obama developed new standards to close what it viewed as gaps in the measures enacted in the wake of the BP oil spill in 2010. New rules covered blowout preventers, equipment used to close down a failed well. The failure of the blowout preventer was among the cascading series of events that led to the 2010 disaster that left 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig dead.

BP in 2012 claimed Halliburton destroyed test results regarding cement used to seal the well beneath the rig. Halliburton said the charges were baseless, though a report from U.S. regulators determined the blowout that led to the explosion that sunk the rig was in part because of a faulty cement barrier.

Halliburton officials testified the previous year they were aware of issues with cement, but denied those issues played a role in the 2010 spill.

In response to the proposal, Miyoko Sakashita, the director of the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the Trump administration is putting the oil industry above safety and the environment.

"Reversing offshore safety rules isn't just deregulation, it's willful ignorance," she said in a statement emailed to UPI.

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.

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

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