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Violations of Safety Regulations

While offshore drilling began in the 1880's, the industry was not regulated until the 1950's. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement was replaced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

BOEM is responsible for the following:

"BOEM is responsible for managing environmentally and economically responsible development of the nation’s offshore resources. Its functions will include offshore leasing, resource evaluation, review and administration of oil and gas exploration and development plans, renewable energy development, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and environmental studies."

BSEE is responsible for the following:

"BSEE is responsible for safety and environmental oversight of offshore oil and gas operations, including permitting and inspections, of offshore oil and gas operations. Its functions include the development and enforcement of safety and environmental regulations, permitting offshore exploration, development and production, inspections, offshore regulatory programs, oil spill response and newly formed training and environmental compliance programs."

Changes Since the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

BP recently agreed to pay a $4 billion criminal fine as a result of the April 2010 explosion. The Panel found that BP was guilty of the following violations of federal regulations:

  • BP failed to protect health, safety, property and the environment by (1) performing all operations in a safe and workmanlike manner; and (2) maintaining all equipment and work areas in a safe condition

  • BP failed to take measures to prevent the unauthorized release of hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico and creating conditions that posed unreasonable risk to public health, property, aquatic life, wildlife, recreation, navigation, commercial fishing, or other uses of the ocean

  • BP failed to take necessary precautions to keep the well under control at all times

  • BP failed to cement the well in a manner that would properly control formation pressures and fluids and prevent the release of fluids from any stratum through the wellbore into offshore waters

  • BP failed to use pressure integrity test and related hole-behavior observations, such as pore pressure test results, gas-cut drilling fluid, and well kicks to adjust drilling fluid program and setting depth of casing string

  • BP failed to conduct major inspections of all BOP stack components

  • BP failed to perform the negative test procedures detailed in an application for a permit to modify its plans

After the 2010 oil spill tragedy that took the lives of 11 offshore workers and injured countless others, BSEE cracked down on offshore drilling, releasing updated safety rules.

According to the Interior Department,

"The second regulation, known as the Workplace Safety Rule, requires offshore operators to have clear programs in place to identify potential hazards when they drill, clear protocol for addressing those hazards, and strong procedures and risk-reduction strategies for all phases of activity, from well design and construction to operation, maintenance, and decommissioning."

Some of the enhanced drilling regulations included the following:

  • Operators must demonstrate they're prepared to deal with potential blow-out and worst-case discharge
  • Permit applications for drilling projects must meet new standards for well-design, casing, and cementing
  • Permit applications must be independently certified by a professional engineer
  • There must be corporate compliance statement and review of subsea blowout containment resources
  • Operators must maintain safety and environmental programs and follow performance-based standards for drilling and production, including equipment, safety practices, environmental safeguards, and management oversight of operations and contractors

Nonetheless, some organizations, such as Oceana still disprove of the measures taken, insisting there have not been enough improvements enacted. The senior campaign director at Oceana said, "Both industry and government get F's. Without stronger regulations, and better inspection and enforcement, oil companies will continue to put profits over safety and there will be more problems. It's not a matter of whether there will be another oil spill, but when."

Find out more about Oceana's "Offshore Drilling Reform Report Card 2012" by clicking here.

The Drilling Safety Rule

The drilling safety rule requires specific procedures to prevent blowout. These procedures include cementing and casing and the appropriate use of drilling fluids. It also requires mechanisms, such as a blowout preventer that shuts off the flow of oil and gas in the event on an accident. Furthermore, operators must secure expert reviews of well design, construction, and flow-intervention mechanisms.

The rule was enacted after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill catastrophe. In the words of the BSEE director, "This rule makes final important standards that were put in place shortly after that spill and is based on input from stakeholders and recommendations from the numerous investigations related to that tragedy."

November 16th Oil Rig Explosion

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board issued a subpoena to the owner of Black Elk Energy (the company that owned the oil rig that suffered an explosion on Friday, November 16 in the Gulf of Mexico). The subpoena will allow such information as the company's safety and environmental management records to be examined, as well as audits conducted by the U.S. Department of Interior. If the company was found to have violated any government regulations, they too could face criminal penalties, as one worker is confirmed dead, several have suffered from serious burns and one worker remains missing.

If you were injured in an oil rig fire or explosion and you believe that your company's violations of federal regulations resulted in the accident, you could be entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages. After you have received the medical help you need, the next most important step you can take is to hire a competent offshore injury attorney. At Arnold & Itkin, we have the skill you want on your side.

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