DOI, BOEMRE propose more offshore safety regulations

The US Department of Interior proposed six more rules that offshore oil and gas producers would need to include in their safety and environmental protection programs. Public comments will be accepted through Nov. 14.

The proposed regulations supplement a workplace safety rule effective in November. DOI developed that safety rule following the 2010 Macondo well incident and crude oil spill, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement Director Michael R. Bromwich jointly said.

Specifically, the new proposals would establish additional job safety requirements, guidelines for reporting unsafe work conditions, procedures to allow any employee to implement a stop-work action when witnessing dangerous activity, ultimate work safety and decision-making authority on an offshore facility, an employee participation program, and a requirement that safety audits be conducted by third parties.

The announcement about the proposed regulations came as Bromwich lauded some oil and gas industry leaders for helping develop new regulations.

But he criticized others for attacking the rules with outdated information.

“I continue to be disappointed to see politically-motivated, erroneous reports and commentaries, sponsored by various industry associations and groups, criticizing the bureau for allegedly ‘slow-walking’ permits and plans,” he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That is a phrase we see repeated over and over again, and it is simply not true.”

As of Sept. 13, BOEMRE has issued 74 new shallow water well permits since the implementation of new safety and environmental standards on June 8, 2010.

“Just 13 of these permits are currently pending; 10 have been returned to the operator for more information,” Bromwich said.

The agency also approved 129 permits for 40 unique wells requiring subsea containment since the first successful demonstration of that capability by an applicant in mid-February, he continued. Twelve permits are pending, and 23 were returned to the operator with requests for additional information, particularly information regarding containment, Bromwich said.

BOEMRE also approved 45 deepwater permits, with one permit pending and one permit returned to the operator with requests for additional information, for activities that include water injection wells and procedures using surface blowout preventers, he said.

“The simple fact is, we are reviewing and approving permits as expeditiously as we can, given our current resources,” Bromwich said Sept. 13. “Another fact that should not be overlooked is our employees have put in more than 1,350 hours of overtime reviewing plans and permits alone in the past six months. In light of that, it is unfair and inappropriate to accuse this bureau of ‘slow-walking’ anything.”

On Sept. 12, Bromwich appointed key managers for the two new agencies that will operate once BOEMRE’s reorganization is complete on Oct. 1. They included Walter D. Cruickshank, who will be deputy director of the new Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, which will handle offshore leasing and resource management; Renee Orr, who will be BOEM’s strategic resource chief; Charles Barbee, who will be the environmental enforcement chief at the new Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement; and Chris Barry, who will be the director at BSEE’s National Offshore Training Center.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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