In a 64-32 vote, the U.S. Senate recently confirmed Janice Schneider to be Assistant Interior Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. Schneider, who replaces Acting Asst. Sec. Tommy Beaudreau, will oversee the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Bureau of Land Management, and the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation.
Schneider’s previous positions in government include service at the Interior Department (Attorney-Advisor in Solicitor’s Office from 1993-1998; Counsel to the Deputy Secretary in 2000) and Department of Justice (Environment and Natural Resources Division from 1998-1999 and in 2001).
USCG Issues Voluntary Guidance for OCS Facility Fire &Explosion Analyses
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has announced the issuance of recommended interim voluntary guidelines pertaining to fire and explosion analyses for mobile offshore drilling units and manned fixed and floating offshore facilities engaged in Outer Continental Shelf activities. The voluntary guidelines, which USCG says are intended for the design of new facilities but may be useful in assessing and increasing the safety of existing facilities, took effect on May 2, 2014.
The announcement notes that recommendations included in the USCG’s Deepwater Horizon report urged the Coast Guard to evaluate the need for fire and explosion risk analysis to ensure an adequate level of protection is provided for accomodation spaces, escape paths, embarkation stations, and structures housing vital safety equipment from drill floor and production area events. It also notes that recommendations in the 2009 IMO Code are not sufficiently specific.
The USCG refers to the voluntary guidelines, which address engineering evalution, explosion protection, fire protection, heat exposure, and mitigation, as an “interim measure pending a Coast Guard future rulemaking. “
BSEE Safety Alert Issued for Methane Venting Hazard
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement recently issued a Safety Alert on the need for increased awareness of the hazard posed by methane and other combustible gases to helicopter operations on offshore oil and gas facilities.
To minimize hazards posed by vented methane, BSEE recommends that helicopter companies, pilots, and offshore oil and gas operators thoroughly review and adhere to guidance provided in the Helicopter Safety Advisory Conference updated Recommended Practice 92-4 and company policies. BSEE adds that pilot alertness to winds, warning light(s), and aircraft performance is “essential. “
House Legislation Seeks to Increase Fossil Energy R&D
U.S. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) recently introduced H.R. 4553 (“Fossil Energy Encouragement and Accountability Act of 2014”), a bill that would, among other things, authorize the appropriation of $100 million to the Secretary of Energy for oil and natural gas research and development for FY 2015.
In a press release, Rep. McKinley said that the “critical” research conducted by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) “provides great benefits for our environment and energy security, plus it keeps energy prices for consumers affordable while leading to energy independence,” adding that NETL funding “results in affordable, safe and clean ways to enhance and utilize our domestic fossil fuels.”
Comments Sought on Proposed Revision/Extension of NEPA-related ICR
The Commerce Department recently announced that it is seeking comments on its plan to seek Office of Management and Budget approval of a revision and extension of the existing National Environmental Policy Act Environmental Questionnaire and Checklist (EQC) for use by NOAA. DOC says that the revision is being sought to “improve understanding and clarity of the questions.”
Comments and recommendations on the proposed revision and extension are due by Thursday, May 29.
Charter Renewed for National Ocean Council Advisory Committee
The Defense Department recently announced the renewal of the charter for the Ocean Research Advisory Panel (ORAP). Among other things, ORAP provides advice to the National Ocean Council on policies, procedures, and other responsibilities related to the National Ocean Policy, and is currently the only formal advisory committee to the National Ocean Council.
Shipping Coordinating Committee to Hold Public Meeting
The State Department has announced that the Shipping Coordinating Committee will hold an open meeting on Wednesday, May 28 in Washington, DC to prepare for the 64th Session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Technical Cooperation Committee and the 112th Session of the IMO Council Session, to respectively be held in London June 11-13 and June 16-21.
According to the announcement, agenda items to be considered relate to topics including global maritime training institutions, consideration of the reports of the Marine Environment Protection and Maritime Safety Committees, and the protection of vital shipping lanes.
Sec. Kerry Announces Ocean Conference, Calls for Ocean Protection
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced that he will convene the “Our Ocean Conference” at the State Dept. in Washington, DC on June 16-17, 2014. Originally scheduled to take place in October 2013, the invitation-only event was subsequently postponed. The conference will be streamed live online.
In making the announcement, Sec. Kerry said that the ocean is “threatened by unsustainable fishing, by pollution, by climate change,” adding that “how we respond to these challenges is literally going to help determine the future of our planet.” He further stated that “there can be no doubt that the ocean requires our protection and our collective action,” imploring others to “join us at the ‘Our Ocean’ Conference and…create a healthier ocean, together.”
The conference will focus on sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification.
At the World Ocean Summit in February, Sec. Kerry called for protecting 10% of the world’s coastal and marine areas, ending government subsidies to fisheries, engaging in more sustainable agricultural processes, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pursuing cleaner energy sources.
Nominations Sought for Upcoming OCS Scientific Committee Vacancies
The Interior Department has announced that nominations are being sought to fill 15 upcoming vacancies on the Outer Continental Shelf Scientific Committee. Individuals selected would serve from October 15, 2014 through October 14, 2017. The initial 3-year term may be renewable for up to an additional 3 years. Letters of interest and resumes are due by Monday, May 26.
BOEM is specifically seeking scientists with experience in the biological, physical, chemical, and social sciences. Selections will be based on maintaining disciplinary expertise in all areas of research, as well as geographic balance, with demonstrated knowledge of the scientific issues related to OCS energy and mineral development being essential.
BSEE Conducts Unannounced Spill Drill In California
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement recently announced its participation with Occidential Petroleum Corporation (OXY) in a day-long Government Initiated Unannounced Exercise in Huntington Beach, CA that tested OXY’s ability to respond to a simulated spill event pursuant to the company’s Oil Spill Response Plan.
The test involved the simulated release of 50 barrels of crude oil from a pipeline connecting Platform Emmy with the shore. The Coast Guard, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California State Lands Commission also participated in the exercise.
Towing Safety Advisory Committee To Hold Public Meeting
The U.S. Coast Guard recently announced that the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) will hold a public teleconference meeting from 1 pm to 3 pm EST on Wednesday, June 4. TSAC advises the Homeland Security Secretary on matters relating to shallow-draft inland and coastal waterway navigation and towing safety.
In addition to a public comment opportunity, meeting agenda items include the following:
- Assignment of new tasking for recommendations on the Coast Guard report of Investigation into the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit KULLUK grounding incident; and
- Status updates on recommendations on matters including the improvement of Coast Guard marine casualty reporting, evaluating placement of structures adjacent to or within the navigable channel, and mid-stream LNG and CNG refueling of towing vessels
For additional information, contact Brent Greenfield with HBW Resources. His contact information is below.
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