Policy News

Trump Administration Proposes Revised Arctic Regulations

Research informs revisions and provides for smarter and safer energy exploration

On November 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that they will issue an Arctic Exploratory Drilling Proposed Rule to remove unnecessary, burdensome provisions while ensuring that energy exploration on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf remains safe and environmentally responsible.

“As countries like Russia increase their presence in the Arctic – including the use of U.S. technologies to develop their seabed resources, it is increasingly important to ensure that the United States has a strong presence in the Arctic OCS,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Kate MacGregor. “The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas have a long legacy of oil and gas development – we believe these proposed revisions will better harness new technological innovation and best science to allow for responsible domestic energy development off the coast of Alaska.”

“Our efforts to reform overly burdensome regulations continue to be careful, tailored and balanced,” said BSEE Director Scott Angelle. “Working with our BOEM teammates, we developed proposed revisions that consider conditions specific to the Arctic Region and make sense. We look forward to the public comment period and continued engagement with Alaska Native stakeholders.”

President Trump’s Executive Order 13795 – Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy and Interior Secretary’s Order 3350 – America-First Offshore Energy Strategy directed Interior to review the 2016 Arctic Exploratory Drilling Rule and to report recommendations. To date, there have been 37 wells completed in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

The proposed rule leaves 36 out of 65 provisions from the original Arctic Rule – approximately 55 percent – unchanged. Ten provisions were identified as appropriate for revision, and 12 provisions were added to maintain safety and environmental protection on the OCS.

The revision team, made up of career subject matter experts and regulatory specialists, looked to additional research in their review, including a BSEE-commissioned Technology Assessment Program study, National Petroleum Council Reports and consultations with leaders of more than 23 Alaska Native tribes, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) corporations and municipalities throughout Alaska. The team also addressed an additional issue, lease suspensions for seasonal weather-related constraints, that is relevant to exploration in the Arctic but was outside the scope of the 2016 Arctic Rule.

“The Arctic is one of America's truly unique and important ecosystems and the regulations we have in place to protect it should make sense,” said Dr. Walter Cruickshank, BOEM's acting director. “After careful review, BOEM and BSEE have identified several opportunities to improve these regulations by streamlining redundant processes and ultimately providing a carefully considered blueprint for safe and responsible development of offshore resources in the Arctic.”

The revised rule is being published as a proposed rulemaking. The public comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Interested members of the public may submit comments here.


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