Regulatory enforcement continues as US government shuts down

Federal agencies regulating oil and gas activities generally planned to continue their enforcement activities as the US government partially shut down after Congress failed to fund operations past the end of fiscal 2013.

US Department of the Interior contingency plans, which were issued Sept. 26, called for 58,541 of its 72,562 employees to be furloughed immediately, and 224 to follow in another week.

The plans called for 10,200 US Bureau of Land Management employees to be told not to report for work Oct. 1. Six hundred workers, primarily in law enforcement and emergency response, would stay on the job. Some administrators, including state directors, were to continue working. Applications processing would cease and campgrounds would close.

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement would continue about 53% of its operations with 403 employees, using nonappropriated funds to cover the cost, and furlough 369 members of its workforce. “The major ongoing activities that would continue include review and applications for drilling permits and other offshore permits,” the plans said. “Inspections would continue to be performed.”

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was to suspend work on renewable energy activities and the 5-year US Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas program, but continue support for BSEE permitting, emergency response, administrative services, and personnel functions. Eight employees needed to protect life and property and 64 more whose salaries are funded from non-lapsing sources would continue working; 477 employees were to be furloughed.

The US Department of Energy’s contingency plans called for limited operations to continue within its Fossil Energy Office at the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve, National Energy Technology Laboratories, and the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Training Center. The largest number of DOE employees who would not be furloughed—334—would be in the National Nuclear Safety Administration, which handles weapons, international nonproliferation, and deployed naval reactors servicing.

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said on Sept. 30 that it initially would continue normal business operations using available balances from previous years. Under its Sept. 27 contingency plan, once those funds were exhausted, it would continue inspections of approved liquefied natural gas projects and licensed hydroelectric projects, and respond to emergencies. Filings and applications would not be accepted.

At the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 167 employees, all but 8 in life and safety protection capacities, were scheduled to continue working, according to the US Department of Transportation Sept. 27 contingency plans. Another 274 were to be furloughed. Hazardous safety inspections were to continue.

Information about the US Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing activities was not immediately available.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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