Environmental Policy News

BSEE, BOEM Issue New Rules for Exploratory Drilling Offshore Alaska

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have released proposed new regulations to “ensure that future exploratory drilling activities on the U.S. Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are done safely and responsibly, subject to strong and proven operational standards.”

The proposed Arctic-specific regulations released 20 February 2015 focus solely on offshore exploration drilling operations within the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas. Using a combination of performance-based and prescriptive standards, the proposed regulations codify and further develop current Arctic-specific operational standards that seek to ensure that operators take the necessary steps to plan through all phases of offshore exploration in the Arctic, including mobilization, drilling, maritime transport and emergency response, and conduct safe drilling operations while in theater.

The proposed regulations codify requirements that all Arctic offshore operators and their contractors are appropriately prepared for Arctic conditions and that operators have developed an integrated operations plan that details all phases of the exploration program for purposes of advance planning and risk assessment. With an emphasis on safe and responsible exploration, the proposed rule also would require operators to submit region-specific oil spill response plans, have prompt access to source control and containment equipment, and have available a separate relief rig to timely drill a relief well in the event of a loss of well control. The proposed rule continues to allow for technological innovation, as long as the operator can demonstrate that the level of its safety and environmental performance satisfies the standards set forth in the proposed rule.

The public may submit comments on the proposed Arctic regulations during the 60-day comment period that begins when the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.

For more information, visit www.bsee.gov/uploadedFiles/Proposed%20Arctic%20Drilling%20Rule.pdf.

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