Government regulators have issued a final set of safety rules for offshore drilling. This is a follow up to the series of emergency measures put in place after the 2010 BP oil spill. The 137-page rule was released last month by the Interior Department. Hopefully the new rules will be enough to prevent another catastrophe such as the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 people and caused 200 million gallons (757 million liters) of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico.
I haven’t read the rules, but understand the safety measures are to make sure oil flow can be stopped if there are problems. The rules deal with how the wells are designed, and also how the cement and barriers used to secure them are tested. I was told that the rules also require that blowout preventers, which failed in the 2010 disaster, be independently tested by a third party to ensure they are capable of cutting off the flow of oil. Jim Watson, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said in a statement:
Today’s action builds on the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and is part of the administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand safe and responsible development of America’s domestic energy resources.
It was reported that the biggest change to the interim rules deals with industry standards that were broadly referenced as part of the rules. Industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, claim the rules were confusing and could introduce new risk into the system. The interim rules apparently will make mandatory some measures that the industry had made voluntary. The result was that some measures appeared to conflict with each other. The revised rules released on August 15th restored the industry’s distinction between “should” and “must,” and that’s a good thing.
According to the Interior Department, the final rules will cost the industry about $131 million annually to comply, or about $53 million less than the emergency rules. Among the changes, the Department trimmed by about $86 million its estimate for how much it will cost to test remotely-operated underwater vehicles, such as those that provided video feeds of oil spilling into the Gulf in 2010. Both the oil industry, environmental groups and safety groups are looking at the rules. Based on what happened in the Gulf of Mexico, safety must be an absolute top priority. That includes a strong inspection system.
Offshore drilling has become highly politicized, pitting those concerned about the practice’s safety against those who argue for increased domestic energy production. President Barack Obama issued a moratorium on offshore drilling in the wake of the BP spill, but reversed it months later when the emergency rules were put in place. More than 750 permits for offshore drilling activities have been approved since the Deepwater Horizon spill. I favor offshore drilling, but have seen first-hand why tough regulation is an absolute necessity.
Source: Claims Journal
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