The Obama administration has issued final rules on exploratory oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, requiring oil companies to take additional safety and environmental mitigation measures compared do drilling operations in other waters.
The regulations, issued by the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement on Thursday, apply to exploratory drilling operations from floating vessels within the US Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
They require operators to develop an Integrated Operations Plan addressing all phases of a proposed Arctic exploration program and submit it to BOEM in advance of filing an Exploration Plan. The regulations require companies to have access to — and the ability to promptly deploy — source control and containment equipment, such as capping stacks and containment domes, while drilling below or working below the surface casing.
Operators also must have access to a separate relief rig able to drill a timely relief well under the conditions expected at the site in the event of a loss of well control; have the capability to predict, track, report, and respond to ice conditions and adverse weather events; effectively manage and oversee contractors; and develop and implement an Oil Spill Response Plan designed and executed in a manner that accounts for the unique Arctic OCS operating environment, and is supported with the necessary equipment, training, and personnel for oil spill response on the Arctic OCS.
The agency estimates the final rule will cost the industry up to $2.05 billion over 10 years, Morning Consult reports.
The agency says the final rule complements earlier offshore drilling regulations, announced in April.
The oil and gas industry said the rules will limit domestic energy supplies and new jobs.
“This is an unfortunate turn by this administration and will continue to stifle offshore oil and natural gas production,” said Erik Milito, American Petroleum Institute upstream and industry operations director. “We remain concerned about various regulatory activities related to offshore energy development including today’s proposals for Arctic operations.”
Environmental groups, however, said the final rule isn’t strict enough.
“No regulations will make Arctic drilling safe,” said Natural Resources Defense Council’s Alaska director Niel Lawrence. And these regulations, though better than the last ones, require no more than what Shell operated under in its disastrous 2014 drill effort. Instead of pretending that new regs will end the horrific risks, BOEM should be recommending that President Obama use his statutory authority to take Arctic drilling off the table forever.”