US Announces Tougher New Offshore Drilling Rules


Photo credit: US Coast Guard
Offshore Drilling Moratorium Still In Place
Today, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced newly tightened regulations for offshore drilling. The rules are effective immediately, but the moratorium on offshore drilling imposed by the Obama administration at the beginning of the spill remains in place. They're aimed at clamping down on some of the key areas that allowed the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon to take place -- stronger oversight for worker training, emergency response, and blowout protectors, to name a few. Here are the new rules:Via the New York Times:
The new rules -- governing blowout preventers, safety certification, well design, emergency response and worker training -- provide offshore drillers with clarity on the terms under which drilling will resume when the current freeze ends. The main conditions had already been telegraphed by the department in a safety report issued in May and in two notices to offshore operators handed down in June, in response to the blowout of a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20.
The new rules can mostly be described as requiring better, safer, and more in each of the aforementioned areas. The NRDC parsed the newly released regs, and released the following statement:
The new protections add a needed measure of transparency, oversight and certainty to the drilling process, from the well design to the way pipes are positioned and cemented in place. They require that decision-makers on rigs have proper training in offshore operations; that blow out preventers be in working order and up to the job; and that remotely operated vehicles - undersea robots - be in place at all times, along with standby crews able to guide them.
All good things, of course, but the problem is hardly solved -- writing a new regulatory framework is one thing, and successfully and aggressively enforcing it is another. Remember, there already were plenty of oversight rules from the previous agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, but the enforcement department was laughable. The NRDC calls on the Senate to pass, as the House has, strict drilling regulations that aren't bound to the Executive office.

Furthermore, a true response to a catastrophe as great as the BP spill would seek to address the root -- reliance on fossil fuels that have become difficult and dangerous to extract -- rather than apply a bandaid. The Obama administration will only have really responded to this spill when it throws its weight behind clean energy policy.

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