The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) recentlyannounced the selection of Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center (TEES) to manage the Ocean Energy Safety Institute (Institute).
Under the 5-year agreement that BSEE will fund with $5 million, TEES will manage the Institute, with participation from the following partners: Texas A&M University, University of Texas, and University of Houston.
BSEE Director Brian Salerno, who along with BSEE Offshore Regulatory Programs Chief Doug Morris toured the TEES Safety Center, said that he looked forward to working with the Institute “on finding ways to improve safety offshore” and noted that it would serve as a “center of expertise” in offshore oil and gas exploration, development, and production technology.
BOEM noted that the Institute has been established to facilitate R&D, the training of federal employees on the identification and verification of Best Available and Safest Technology, and the implementation of operational improvements in offshore drilling safety and environmental protection, blowout containment, and oil spill response.
BSEE Director Discusses Offshore Safety in Wake of Panel Investigation Report
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) recentlyannounced the release of a Panel Investigation Report on the November 16, 2012 explosion and fire that took place on a Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations-operated platform located at West Delta Block 32 in the Gulf of Mexico. The incident led to three fatalities and serious injuries to three others.
In a statement, BSEE Director Brian Salerno noted the report’s identification of “safety failures” including no hazard identification, conducting “hot work” without taking required safety precautions, failure to isolate hydrocarbons inside an oil tank, ineffective communication among contractors, and a climate in which workers feared retaliation for raising safety concerns. He said that “these failures reflect a disregard for the safety of workers on the platform and are the antithesis of the type of safety culture that should guide decision-making in all offshore oil and gas operations.”
As a result of the report’s findings and recommendation that operators conduct a “safety stand down,” Salerno “strongly requests all operators with personnel at manned offshore facilities take this opportunity before the end of the year to discuss the events that led to this explosion and to ensure that their operations are safe.”
Salerno has also asked the American Petroleum Institute to issue a “comprehensive standard” for “hot work” that includes the industry’s best practices. He said that such a document “could help to ensure consistency across the OCS, increase industry communication on this important topic, and assist BSEE in evaluating plans.”
Salerno further stated that “[t]here must be complete adoption by everyone who works offshore of the tenants [sic] of a robust safety culture, and a continuous effort to reduce risks inherent to all operations,” encouraging industry to read the report, “internalize” lessons learned, evaluate their operations, and “refocus” their efforts.
70+ Groups Urge WRRDA Conferees To Maintain House NOP Provisions in Bill
Over seventy groups ranging from recreational fishermen and charter boat operators to home builders, energy producers, and agriculture producers sent a letter to House and Senate conferees to the Water Resources Reform and Development Act supporting provisions added to the bill by Rep. Bill Flores regarding implementation of the National Ocean Policy.
The provision would prohibit funding in the bill from being used for implement specific aspects of the National Ocean Policy, including Coastal Marine Spatial Planning and Ecosystem-based Management. The provision would also require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to disclose federal resources utilized in the creation and implementation of the policy.
During the initial meeting of the conference committee, House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Doc Hastings expressed support for the House provisions and concerns about other language included by the Senate potentially creating new funding streams for the policy.
Senior Interior Department Nominees Announced
The Interior Department recently announced President Obama’s intention to nominate Janice Schneider to be Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. This position is responsible for overseeing 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 was officially nominated on Wednesday.
If confirmed, Schneider would replace Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Tommy Beaudreau, who was recently nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget. The Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget oversees programmatic, administrative and financial policy for the Department, including budget formulation and implementation.
If confirmed, Beaudreau would replace Rhea Suh, who was recently nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
Utech to Replace Zichal as Obama’s Senior Climate & Energy Advisor
The Washington Post recently reported on the White House’s confirmation that Dan Utech will replaceHeather Zichal as President Obama’s climate and energy advisor. Utech had been Zichal’s deputy, following positions at the Department of Energy and the U.S. Senate (including service on the Environment and Public Works Committee).
President Obama issued a statement on Zichal’s departure, noting that she has provided “a strong and steady voice for policies that reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, protect public health and our environment, and combat the threat of global climate change.” “Above all,” he said that her “efforts have proven that strengthening America’s energy security does not have to be a choice between economic growth or good environmental stewardship – it can mean both.”
Comments Sought on BOEM’s Offshore Facility OSFR-Related Information Collection Request
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced that it is seeking comments on an oil spill financial responsibility-related information collection renewal request that has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review and approval.
According to BOEM, the revisions contained in the renewal request will “better protect the Federal Government from potential disputes and litigation by clarifying that the primary relationship is between the responsible party and guarantor and that the designated applicant/operator is intended to function primarily in an administrative capacity.”
Comments are due by Friday, December 6, 2013.
BOEM Seeks Comments on Information Collection Request
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently announced that it is seeking comments on an information collection request that will be submitted to the Office of Management for review and approval. The request concerns 24 reporting and recordkeeping requirements of regulations that involve an estimated 16,235 annual burden hours.
The request specifically addresses oil and gas and sulphur leasing (30 CFR Parts 556 and 560) and pipelines and pipeline rights-of-way (30 CFR Part 550), related Notices to Lessees and Operators, and the use of forms to process bonds, transfer interest in leases, and file relinquishments (Forms BOEM-0150, 0151, 0152, 2028, 2028A, and 2030).
Comments are due by Friday, January 3, 2014.
Comments Sought on BOEM’s FY 2015 Environmental Studies Development Plan
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently announced that the agency is beginning to develop the Environmental Studies Development Plan for FY 2015, asking for suggestions to be submitted by Friday, December 6, 2013. According to BOEM, input will assist the development of plans for FY 2015 and beyond.
The announcement “invite[s]…participation in identifying studies to be considered for this and future plans including biological, social, economic and cultural topics,” and notes BOEM’s responsibility “for ensuring that effects on the natural and human environment are taken into consideration in renewable energy leasing and development decisions on the outer continental shelf.”
Studies Development Plans are developed annually and cover 3-year periods.
Comments Sought On NOAA’s Draft Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service recently announced that it is seeking public comments ondraft marine mammal stock assessment reports (SAR’s) for 46 stocks of marine mammals in the Atlantic (includes Atlantic and Gulf coasts and U.S. territories in the Caribbean), 25 stocks in the Alaska region, and 52 stocks in the Pacific region (includes Pacific coast, Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and U.S. territories in Western Pacific).
NMFS has revised SAR’s in the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions to incorporate new information. The draft 2013 SAR’s are the first to incorporate new serious injury guidelines pursuant to the NMFS Serious Determination Policy that was finalized in January 2012.
Comments on the draft SAR’s are due by Tuesday, February 4, 2014.
Approval Sought for Revision to NIH Deepwater Horizon-related Health Study
The Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) recentlyannounced that it is seeking comments on its intention to seek Office of Management and Budget review and approval of a revision to the Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study (GuLF STUDY).
According to the announcement, the purpose of the GuLF STUDY is to investigate short- and long-term health effects associated with Deepwater Horizon-related oil spill clean-up activities and exposures, as well as to serve as a resource for additional collaborative research on focused hypotheses or subgroups. The notice further states that potential long-term human health impacts “are largely unknown due to insufficient research in this area.”
Nearly 33,000 participants have enrolled in the GuLF Study so far, with 20,000 having been assigned to an Active Follow-up sub-group (6,000 of whom have been assigned to the Biomedical Surveillance sub-group).
Under the proposal, the following NIH activities estimated to involve 21,724 annual burden hours would be authorized for three years:
· Annual request to all GuLF Study participants to update their contact information;
· Biennial phone questionnaire to 20,000 participants in the Active Follow-up sub-group to assess health status changes and “factors that could confound associations between exposures and outcomes;”
· Supplemental mental health questionnaire to 4,600 members of the Active Follow-up sub-group “to assess mental health trajectories among those affected by the oil spill and utilization of mental health services in the Gulf region;” and
· Invitation to 4,000 members of Biomedical Surveillance sub-group to undergo a comprehensive clinical exam to assess pulmonary, neurological, and mental health outcomes “that may be associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill exposures and experiences”
Comments are due by Friday, December 6, 2013.
For additional information, contact Brent Greenfield with HBW Resources. His contact information is below.
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