New offshore drilling rules hinge on Deepwater Horizon probe

The government is about to kick-start a long process for setting new offshore drilling safety standards — but only after a joint federal investigation into the Deepwater Horizon disaster is complete, a top Obama administration official told the Houston Chronicle.

At issue is the joint Coast Guard and Interior Department probe of the oil spill. Although the joint investigation team held its final public hearings in April, the panel has not yet issued its conclusions about the root causes of the disaster.

That final report is set to be released “in the very near future,” said Michael Bromwich, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

The document is expected to identify failures at BP’s doomed Macondo well that may have contributed to its lethal blowout on April 20 last year and the resulting oil spill.

The panel’s report may provide the foundation for bolstering mandates on the blowout preventers used as a last line of defense against unexpected surges of oil and gas at wells. The joint investigation team’s conclusions about well design also could spur regulatory changes.

“Even though it is going to be a very broad rulemaking process and there will be plenty of time to get input, we thought we would be better served by seeing where the JIT came out on a variety of issues before we (began),” Bromwich said. “We have quite explicitly been waiting for the conclusion of the JIT process and the release of the JIT report before we go out with the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.”

That advanced notice will kick off a long process of creating the new drilling safety regulation. Bromwich has stressed that the slower timetable will allow more people to weigh in on the measure’s content.

Although the ocean energy bureau director declined to give a specific time frame, he said he anticipated the rulemaking would begin “reasonably soon after the issuance of the report.”

Bromwich has previously said the rule will be “focused on all dimensions of drilling safety.”

It almost certainly will include proposed new standards for blowout preventers, the design of offshore wells and cement barriers at the sites.

The measure also is likely to make adjustments to a drilling safety rule that was imposed last October. The ocean energy bureau has clarified some requirements of that rule already, in response to oil and gas companies that complained it set some confusing and conflicting standards.

3 Comments

  1. Jakz

    The government is about to kick-start a long process for setting new offshore drilling safety standards — but only after a joint federal investigation into the Deepwater Horizon disaster is complete, a top Obama administration official told the Houston Chronicle.
    ___________
    Someone needs to set the “top obama administration official” straight. The Obama adminstration needs to be investigated for their poor performance during the Gulf spill. Not only did Obama not allow foreign vessels to help early on, but the feds negated or dragged their feet on state plans to fight the oil coming ashore. The worst offense was failure of the Obama administration to fulfill the terms of the federal Oil Pollution Act(under EPA) which if carried out would have had an oil spill plan already in place.

    #1
  2. PeachTea

    I remember watching the video (at NOLA.com) of the interview of one of the investigators from the Coast Guard. If I remember correctly, he stressed that there was a great need for a better understanding at the site of the chain-of-command. Undoubtedly there are safety guidelines, but do the workers actually practice a hands-on, “live” evacuation drill during a simulated event? That kind of drill — perhaps repeated every six months or so — might be a simple, quick fix that could save lives.

    Glad to see those BP commercials about the Gulf Coast — more is probably needed, but it’s good to see what appears to be a “good faith” response from BP on the pledge to restore the Gulf Coast.

    To all who have worked to restore the Gulf Coast and to make our waters, shorelines, and fragile habitats safe for future generations as well as for drilling, thank you. You know who you are.

    #2
  3. fishgru00

    this is the same administration that wants to creat jobs…
    here’s a clue – issue some permits and get some rigs/people working and guess what, this needs no stimulus cash!!!

    #3