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BSEE proposes rollback of offshore oil and gas safety rule

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Washington — The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has issued a proposed rule intended to “reduce certain unnecessary regulatory burdens” that exist under the Production Systems Safety Rule “while correcting errors and clarifying current requirements,” according to a notice published in the Dec. 29 Federal Register.

The proposed rule would revise provisions of regulations on offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. According to the agency, the amendments would help save the industry at least $228 million over 10 years. Proposed changes include:

  • Adding gas lift shutdown valves among safety and pollution prevention equipment
  • Removing the requirement for operators to certify SPPE functions through an independent third party
  • Clarifying or revising various requirements for failure reporting, production safety system design, Class 1 vessels, fire tube inspection for tube-type heaters and notifying district managers before beginning production

The Production Systems Safety Rule, finalized in 2016, was prompted by the April 2010 explosion and fire that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. This past April, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that called for the reconsideration of some offshore energy regulations.

“I am confident that this revision of the Production Safety Systems Rule moves us forward toward meeting the administration’s goal of achieving energy dominance without sacrificing safety,” BSEE Director Scott Angelle said in a Dec. 28 press release. “By reducing the regulatory burden on industry, we are encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production while maintaining a high bar for safety and environmental sustainability.”

Randall Luthi, president of the Washington-based National Ocean Industries Association, called the proposed rule “an integral step in the regulatory reform promised by President Trump” in an association press release issued Dec. 28.

Opponents include Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, AZ.

“Rolling back drilling safety standards while expanding offshore leasing is a recipe for disaster,” Sakashita said in a statement, according to various news reports. “By tossing aside the lessons from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Trump is putting our coasts and wildlife at risk of more deadly oil spills. Reversing offshore safety rules isn’t just deregulation, it’s willful ignorance.”

Comments on the proposed rule are due Jan. 29.

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