Coordination and Increased Oversight Focus of Offshore Energy Development Regulatory Activities

HBW Resources Offshore Energy Report

Below is a summary of publicly available activities currently underway that could affect the development of offshore oil and gas resources prepared by Brent Greenfield, HBW Resources’ Director of Ocean Policy and Regulatory Affairs.

GAO Addresses Hiring/Retention Challenges at Interior Dept. Agencies

In a report recently released to the public, the Government Accountability Office issued recommendations designed to address ongoing hiring and retention challenges at the Interior Department’s Ocean Energy Management, Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and Land Management Bureaus.

GAO specifically calls on the Interior Secretary to “explore and expand” the use of existing authorities (including recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives) “to help bridge the salary gap for key oil and gas oversight positions” including petroleum engineers, geologists, and geophysicists, and “develop clear guidance for when the use of these incentives are warranted and how the effectiveness of their use will be assessed.”

GAO also calls on the Interior Secretary to “systematically collect data on hiring times for key oil and gas positions, ensure the accuracy of the data, analyze the data to identify the causes of delays and expedite the hiring process.”

Subsequent to the report’s release, the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing to further discuss the issue.

Comments Sought on Proposed Increase in Offshore Oil Spill Liability Limit

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently announced its proposal to administratively raise the liability limit for oil spill removal costs and related damages from $75 million to ~$134 million.  The proposed rule, which was published for public comment on Feb. 24, would also set forth methodology for determining further inflation-adjusted adjustments to the liability cap.  Comments on the proposal are due by Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

BOEM attributed the need for the liability limit increase to the rise in inflation since the cap’s establishment in 1990 under the Oil Pollution Act, and noted that the proposed cap increase is the maximum allowed without legislation.

BOEM noted that the liability limit increase would apply to offshore facilities in federal and state waters and be consistent with post-Deepwater Horizon recommendations and studies.

Senior BSEE Advisor Discusses Safety/Environmental Protection 

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) recently announced that the BSEE Director’s Senior Advisor Allyson Anderson gave an address at the Winds of Change in Offshore Oil and Gas Conference in Houston.

Anderson said in part that “[w]e want our stakeholders and industry to know that we are continuously looking for improvements in safety and environmental protection and that we will continue to leverage new technology and strategic partnerships when possible.”

BSEE noted that Anderson’s comments addressed areas including efforts to improve the agency’s ability to analyze data obtained through incident reporting requirements and near miss and real time reporting.

Joint BSEE-USCG Meeting Held in Washington, DC

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) recently announced that BSEE Director Brian Salerno hosted U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio and other senior USCG officials at BSEE headquarters in Washington, D.C.

According to the announcement, topics of discussion included the following:

  • BSEE and USCG operational updates for the Gulf of Mexico Region
  • The development and capture of offshore facility data and creation of a related information-sharing system
  • BSEE/USCG inspection requirements for offshore rigs/fixed facilities and establishment of joint BSEE/USCG training opportunities
  • Commitment to Arctic and continuing joint discussions on Arctic operations, rulemakings, and planning efforts at the field and national levels

Rigs to Reefs, Snapper-Platform Connection on Agenda for GOM Fishery Mgmt. Council Panel Meeting

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently announced that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Joint Shrimp and Ad Hoc Artificial Substrate Advisory Panels will hold an open meeting in St. Petersburg, FL on Thursday, March 6, 2014.

According to the latest agenda, topics for discussion and recommendations include Rigs to Reefs and “Habitat limitations of age 2 red snapper and their association with petroleum platforms.”

Live web access to the meeting, which is scheduled to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST, is accessible by registering here.

BSEE Conducts Unannounced Oil Spill Drill

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) recently announced its completion of an unannounced oil spill drill test in the Gulf of Mexico.

The test involved the deployment of oil spill response equipment under contract to Freeport-McMoRan to three separate areas along the Central Gulf Coast, as well as simulated dispersant use consultation, well containment, and on-water spill response.  Participating agencies included the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, the States of Louisiana and Texas, and Freeport-McMoRan.

Comments Sought on Oil and Gas Pipeline-related Information Collection Request

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has announced that it is seeking public comments on its request for Office of Management and Budget to approve a renewal of paperwork requirements related to open and nondiscriminatory access to oil and gas pipelines under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.  Comments are due by Monday, March 24, 2014.

The proposed information collection renewal specifically pertains to the process by which entities can submit complaints alleging denial of access or discriminatory access for a shipper transporting oil or gas from federal leases on the OCS.

Comments Sought on Mineral Revenue-related Information Collection Request

The Interior Department’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) has announced that it is seeking comments on its intention to seek Office of Management and Budget approval to extend an information collection pertaining to the submittal of financial statements or surety instruments to stay an ONRR mineral revenue-related order, decision, or accrual of civil penalties.  Comments are due by Monday, April 21, 2014.

Shipping Coordinating Committee Announces Public Meetings

The U.S. State Department has announced that the Shipping Coordinating Committee will hold two open meetings on Thursday, March 13, 2014 and Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in Arlington, VA to prepare for the first Session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Subcommittee on Navigation, Communication, and Search and Rescue to be held in London from June 30-July 4, 2014.

Agenda items to be considered at the IMO meeting include routing of ships, ship reporting, and related matters, development of guidelines on harmonized aeronautical and maritime search and rescue procedures, the development of measures to protect the safety of persons rescued at sea, development of a mandatory Code for ships operating in polar waters, and a report to the Maritime Safety Committee.

The U.S. State Department has also announced that the Shipping Coordinating Committee will hold an open meeting on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 in Washington, D.C. to prepare for the 66th Session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Environment Protection Committee to be held in London from March 31-April 4, 2014.

Agenda items to be considered at the IMO meeting include reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships, identification and protection of Special Areas and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, technical cooperation activities for marine environmental protection, noise from commercial shipping and adverse marine life impacts, and role of the human element.

Additional Information

For additional information, contact Brent Greenfield with HBW Resources. His contact information is below.

Brent Greenfield
HBW Resources
2211 Norfolk Street, #410
Houston, TX 77098
Tel: 713-337-8810

If you have any general questions, please give me a call anytime. Previous reports and other updates can be found at the HBW Resources Intelligence Tab at:   Hope you have a great day.


Michael Zehr
HBW Resources
1666 K Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20006
Direct: 202-429-6081
Cell: 202-277-3927
Twitter: @mzehrhbw