BOE plans public meetings on deepwater drilling issues

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 19 -- The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOE) will hold eight public meetings in seven coastal states during August and September to discuss deepwater drilling safety reforms, blowout containment, and spill response, the federal agency’s director announced.

BOE Director Michael R. Bromwich said the meetings will solicit information from oil and gas industry experts as well as state and local governments, environmental organizations, experts from academia, and the general public.

“We will engage the public and experts on these issues to determine what additional measures are needed so that deepwater drilling can proceed in a manner that is safe for crews, the environment, and coastal communities,” he said on July 19. “It’s important that we hear from those who have been directly affected by the BP oil spill, as well as from other stakeholders, including the conservation community and the oil and gas industry itself.”

Bromwich’s announcement came a week after US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar imposed a second deepwater drilling moratorium based on technology and drilling configurations instead of water depth. A federal district judge in New Orleans overturned Salazar’s first order, which the secretary issued following BP’s well blowout and resulting oil spill. The new suspensions are scheduled to expire on Nov. 30 or earlier if Salazar decides operations can resume safely.

“We need to know that [companies in] the industry got the message, and that they are quickly taking steps to ensure deepwater drilling operations are safe,” said Bromwich. “They also have to demonstrate to us that they can contain a catastrophic blowout similar to BP oil spill as well as respond appropriately in the event of another oil spill.”

He said the meetings will present experts discussing issues on panels and provide audience members opportunities to comment. Members of the general public also will get a chance to submit comments online and by mail, Bromwich said.

Although specific dates and locations have not been finalized, he said that meetings will occur during August in New Orleans and Lafayette, La.; Mobile, Ala.; Pensacola, Fla.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Anchorage; Alas., and in early September in Biloxi, Miss., and Houston.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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