On April 13, 2015, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) unveiled its proposed regulations designed to increase the safety of blowout preventers – the device that failed to stop the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The proposed regulations would incorporate industry standards and require real-time monitoring of drilling data by onshore based facilities. Post-spill investigations have revealed that the Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer did not block the flow of oil and gas as it should have, nor had it been properly inspected and maintained. The proposed regulations would increase the strength and effectiveness of such devices, in addition to adopting industry standards for their inspection and maintenance.
The proposed regulations would also require that additional measures be taken in order to ensure the safety of offshore drilling, namely the establishment of guidelines for cementing drilling wells and criteria for safe drilling margins. BSEE has received some criticism for what some perceive to be a delay in the adoption of such regulations. It should be noted, however, that many aspects of the proposed regulations incorporate tougher, self-imposed industry standards that have been progressively put into place following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
While the proposed regulations have not been finalized, one thing is presently clear – the Deepwater Horizon litigation has made clear to both oil companies and the government that they should take note of the potential hazards associated with off-shore drilling. As the Department of Interior’s Secretary Sally Jewell pointed out in an April 13 statement:
Both industry and government have taken important strides to better protect human lives and the environment from oil spills, and 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.
I believe that the BSEE’s proposed regulations are certainly another step in the right direction. It appears that the giant oil companies will continue to drill offshore and will attempt to go even deeper into the Gulf of Mexico. They must be responsible and they must also be equally regulated by the U.S. government.
Sources: Law360.com and wwltv.com
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