Australia Gives BP Deepwater Oil Exploration Approval, As US Revamps Offshore Drilling Oversight

offshore oil drilling platform photo

photo: snapper/Creative Commons

Two on offshore oil drilling: 1) The US Department on Interior has announced long-coming restructuring of the Mineral Management Service with the goal (among other things) of increasing oversight of offshore drilling; 2) New York Times reports that Australia has approved plans for BP to expand operations in Bight Basin.

bight basin map

map: Govt of Australia Dept of Primary Industries and Resources
BP To Prospect For Oil Up To 13,000' Deep
On Tuesday, Australia's resources and energy minister announced that BP had secured permits to drill in the Bight Basin in the south of the continent, the first to be issued in a frontier subbasin in over a decade. Australian news reports say that BP will undertake the most ambitious geological review in over a decade of an enormous area with depths ranging up to 13,000 feet below the ocean's surface. That is substantially deeper than the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, whose blowout last year caused the deaths of 11 rig workers and spewed millions of barrels of oil. Australia has announced that it will impose certain special conditions on BP to drill, but those were not immediately outlined.

Mineral Management Service Had Conflicting Missions
It was no great secret that the Mineral Management Service was pretty much a case of the fox watching the hen house when it came to oil exploration. Director of the newly created Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Michael Bromwich acknowledged this in Interior's announcement:
These conflicts, combined with a chronic lack of resources, prevented the agency from fully meeting the challenges of overseeing industry operating in US waters. The reorganization is designed to remove those conflicts by clarifying and separating missions across the three agencies and providing each of the new agencies with clear missions and new resources necessary to fulfill those missions.

Is the reorganization enough to really prevent future oil spill disasters, let alone do anything to get us off oil (fairly, that's probably not within its mission...)? Probably not. But the NRDC take on it is right on:

Creating a Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is a good first step toward strengthening the protections we need to keep our workers and waters safe.The department, though, needs to go further to ensure that safety and environmental concerns are insulated from the kind of political pressure that has compromised this crucial mission in the past. As planned, the new bureau would operate under the same assistant secretary who oversees leasing duties. Instead, the safety and environmental agency should report directly to the Secretary and be led by a Senate-confirmed fixed-term appointee.

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More on Offshore Oil Drilling:
NASA Releases Time-Lapse Video of Gulf Oil Spill
Dept of Interior to Re-Review Offshore Oil Drilling Plans
Canada NOT PREPARED for Major Oil Spill, Environment Commissioner Warns

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