US Considers Weakening Offshore Safety Rules To Promote More Drilling

The Trump administration is considering easing offshore oil and natural gas safety regulations, including eliminating certain requirements for Arctic drilling put in place by the Obama administration, and cutting testing requirements for rules developed in response to BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster, an Interior Department document showed on 14 December.

In addition, the administration is considering giving operators access to Arctic waters for longer periods than currently allowed, a rule change regulators claim could boost interest in exploration.

Details of the administration's plans of offshore rules were outlined in the Interior Department's latest statement of regulatory priorities, which was released on 14 December.

That plan calls for Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to rollback or weaken offshore safety regulations, which were put in place by the Obama administration, in order to promote additional oil and natural gas drilling in federal waters.

"BSEE is reviewing existing regulations to determine whether they may potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, constrain economic growth, or prevent job creation," the plan states. "BSEE is well-positioned to help maintain the nation's position as a global energy leader and foster energy security and resilience for the benefit of the American people, while ensuring that any such activity is performed in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner."

According to the plan, BSEE is considering significant changes to a well control and blowout prevention system rule that Obama's Interior Department finalized in April 2016. That rule, developed in response to BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster, took years to develop and was revised multiple times. Industry groups have criticized elements of the rule, including frequent testing of the blowout preventers and standardized safe drilling margins, arguing they will increase costs for offshore operators.

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