Secretary of the Interior conditionally lifts GoM drilling ban

Offshore staff

WASHINGTON, DC -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has determined it is appropriate that deepwater oil and gas drilling resume, provided that operators certify compliance with all existing rules and requirements, including those that recently went into effect, and demonstrate the availability of adequate blowout containment resources, according to a statement released today.

Secretary Salazar reached his decision after reviewing a report from Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael R. Bromwich and considering other information about offshore oil and gas safety reforms, the availability of spill response resources, and improved blowout containment capabilities.

“In light of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we must continue to take a cautious approach when it comes to deepwater drilling and remain aggressive in raising the bar for the oil and gas industry’s safety and environmental practices,” says Salazar. “We have more work to do in our reform agenda, but at this point we believe the strengthened safety measures we have implemented, along with improved spill response and blowout containment capabilities, have reduced risks to a point where operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume.”

In his decision today, Salazar directs BOEMRE to require the following before approving drilling in deepwater that would have been subject to suspension under his July 12 Decision Memorandum:

• Operator must demonstrate it has enforceable obligations that ensure containment resources are available promptly in the event of a deepwater blowout, regardless of the company or operator involved. The Department of the Interior has a process under way to establish a mechanism relating to the availability of blowout containment resources, and Salazar said he expects that this mechanism will be implemented in the near future.

• The CEO of each operator seeking to perform deepwater drilling certify to BOEMRE that the operator has complied with all regulations, including the new drilling safety rules.

Bromwich says that before deepwater drilling will resume, BOEMRE intends to conduct inspections of each deepwater drilling operation for compliance, including testing of BOPs.

In addition to the recently issued Drilling Safety Rule, Salazar says he anticipates Interior and BOEMRE will undertake further rulemaking that considers additional safety measures – such as redundant blind shear rams, remote activation systems for BOPs, and enhanced instrumentation and sensors on BOPs – to further enhance safety. Future rulemakings may consider information developed by ongoing investigations into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or as a result of public comments on the recently issued Drilling Safety Rule.


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