US Proposes Easing Offshore Oil Drilling Safety Regulations


The U.S. Interior Department on Dec. 28 proposed eliminating some safety regulations for offshore oil and gas drilling that the Obama administration put in place after BP’s massive Gulf of Mexico (GoM) oil spill, a move it said would reduce “unnecessary burdens” on industry.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which regulates offshore drilling, said its proposal to scale back some of the Obama-era requirements was in line with the Trump administration’s goal of “encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production by removing regulatory hurdles.”

The regulation, called the Production Safety Systems Rule, addresses safety and pollution prevention equipment, subsea safety devices and safety device testing for oil and gas production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. BSEE said its initial regulatory impact analysis estimates that the proposed amendments would reduce industry compliance burdens by at least $228 million over 10 years.

One of the safety provisions BSEE plans to remove is a requirement for operators to get a third party to certify that safety devices work under extreme conditions.

During the BP spill, one of these devices, a BOP, failed to work. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the GoM resulted in the deaths of 11 workers and led to the largest oil spill in the history of U.S. marine oil drilling operations. BP paid out around $60 billion in fines and cleanup costs in the wake of the disaster.

The proposal would also revise some oil production safety system design requirements.

Industry groups welcomed the opportunity to give more input into how offshore drilling is regulated.