Posted March 26, 2018
Let’s correct a false narrative out there, that the Trump Administration is rolling back natural gas and oil regulation to benefit industry. A different view is that federal officials are deploying smarter, more efficient, more effective regulation of industry operations, onshore and offshore – which will work best to ensure the safe and well-managed energy development America needs for economic growth and national security, today and well into the future.
By smart, efficient and effective regulation we mean clear, commonsense rules that take into account industry’s innovation, advanced technologies and experience, as well as its long, demonstrated commitment to establishing useful standards for operations, equipment and personnel. All of these have strengthened the culture of safety in our industry – particularly in its offshore activities.
To be clear: Regulation for the sake of regulation doesn’t necessarily make people or operations safer, and layers of prescriptive, command-and-control rules – as opposed to performance-based regimes – can hinder the energy development our country needs for growth and security.
Contrary to the false narrative, a series of initiatives under the U.S. Interior Department’s new offshore regulatory approach are positives for safety and are worthy of the public’s confidence.
One is the new plan by the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to conduct risk-based inspections that use analysis of trend data to identify potential issues with equipment and operations. Jason Mathews, chief of BSEE’s Gulf of Mexico Region Safety Management Office:
“We developed this program to address areas where trends in compliance and incident data suggest the potential for imminent safety concerns.”
Another is BSEE’s announcement that it will increase the time its inspectors are physically present on offshore natural gas and oil platforms.
Both are examples of smart regulation that focuses federal oversight resources on areas where there is the greatest potential for safety problems, both to workers and the environment.
Overall, Interior says BSEE is increasing its engagement with industry, to identify requirements for critical offshore equipment, pinpoint gaps between advancing technologies and regulatory requirements, and research potential third-party certification of BSEE’s inspection program by the International Standards Organization.
This approach makes sense, coupling the federal responsibility to provide regulatory oversight and industry’s experience and technology in building safety into its standards and procedures. BSEE Director Scott Angelle:
“I want BSEE's programs and processes to be the best in the world, and I’m not afraid to subject them to scrutiny to determine where improvements are needed.”
The fact is offshore energy development is safer than it has ever been and is continually improving because of technology, new industry standards, safety management systems and employee training. No human endeavor is free of risk, but industry’s commitment on technology and safety – to protect its workers and the environment – properly manages this risk while producing energy and national security benefits for today and decades into the future.
Safety is a core industry value. More than 100 exploration and production standards have been created or strengthened since 2010, and nearly 100 of API’s standards are referenced in BSEE regulations. The Center for Offshore Safety assists offshore operators in developing safety and environmental management systems to train personnel while establishing safety protocols and erecting safeguards to prevent potential incidents from escalating. In addition, new technologies and expertise allow industry to respond to accidents and equipment failures better than ever before. Erik Milito, API director for upstream and industry operations:
“America’s offshore oil and natural gas industry is characterized by the continued advancement of technology and systems integrity, the application of extensive industry technical standards, and a robust regulatory regime. The industry continues to develop and improve upon technologies designed to ensure that an environmental incident never occurs.”
This is the factual context for the new federal regulatory approach – one to ensure that offshore energy development continues to be safe as industry provides the natural gas and oil our country needs to be economical prosperous and secure in the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.