Interior Proposes New Requirements for Some Alaska Offshore Drilling

The agency's proposed rule focuses solely on the Outer Continental Shelf within the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas (Arctic OCS).

The Department of the Interior, acting through its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), has proposed additional new requirements to the regulations for exploratory drilling and related operations on two parts of Alaska's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea Planning Areas.

The Arctic region is characterized by extreme environmental conditions, geographic remoteness, and a relative lack of fixed infrastructure and existing operations, and this new proposed rule is designed to ensure safe, effective, and responsible exploration of Arctic OCS oil and gas resources while protecting the marine, coastal, and human environments and Alaska Natives' cultural traditions and access to subsistence resources, according to the rule's text. The agency is accepting comments for the next 60 days (visit http://www.regulations.gov and search for BSEE-2013-0011 to submit a comment).

The rule would add to and revise existing regulations in 30 CFR Parts 250, 254, and 550 for Arctic OCS oil and gas activities. The proposed rule would focus on Arctic OCS exploratory drilling activities that use Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs) and related operations during the Arctic OCS open-water drilling season. It would ensure that each operator:

    Designs and conducts exploration programs in a manner suitable for Arctic OCS conditions
  • Develops an integrated operations plan that would address all phases of its proposed Arctic OCS exploration program and submits the IOP to BOEM at least 90 days in advance of filing the Exploration Plan
  • Has access to, and the ability to promptly deploy, Source Control and Containment Equipment (SCCE) while drilling below, or working below, the surface casing
  • Has access to a separate relief rig located so that it could timely drill a relief well in the event of a loss of well control under the conditions expected at the site
  • Has the capability to predict, track, report, and respond to ice conditions and adverse weather events
  • Effectively manages and oversees contractors
  • Develops and implements an Oil Spill Response Plan that is designed and executed in a manner suitable for the unique Arctic OCS operating environment and has the necessary equipment, training, and personnel for oil spill response on the Arctic OCS

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