DOI Takes Charge of Safety for Offshore Renewable Energy
Since its creation in 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has enforced safety regulations in the American workplace. When it comes to offshore renewable energy facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf, OSHA will be taking the backseat, and the Department of the Interior will oversee worker safety.
In October, the DOI revealed that it leased about 1.7 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf for the development of wind energy farms. The leases are in the Atlantic Ocean, extending from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. According to a Federal Register notice, DOI lands are required by law to have a safety management system. The law also states that DOI safety regulations preempt OSHA.
“In carrying out its responsibilities on the OCS, DOI will collaborate and consult with OSHA on the applicability and appropriateness of workplace safety and health standards for the offshore wind industry and other offshore renewable energy industries,” the DOI said in a statement. “In addition, DOI will continue to collaborate with the [U.S. Coast Guard] to share relevant safety and training information and promote safety on the OCS.”
The DOI asserts that the development of this oversight is a critical step to developing the nation’s offshore renewable energy industry. It also claims that the plan reinforces its commitment to “set high standards for a safe environment for renewable energy workers offshore.”
DOI’s Regulation of Offshore Work Isn’t New
While many are surprised to find out about the DOI’s extensive involvement with offshore safety, it has an extensive history of regulation. In 2016, the department overhauled well control regulations for offshore oil and gas development. It also developed a comprehensive set of reforms after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. These regulations included everything from increasing the engineering workforce of the offshore industry, new well control rules to prevent blowouts, and funding for the use of emerging safety technology.
Does the DOI Handle All Offshore Safety?
The DOI does not handle all workplace safety procedures and regulations for offshore work. Wave, tidal, or ocean current energy projects that are within the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are not overseen by the DOI. Additionally, the Coast Guard oversees regulations for offshore support vessels. Offshore support vessels include anchor handling tug vessels, seismic vessels, platform supply vessels, well intervention vessels, and accommodation ships.