Safety and Environmental Standards Raised for Arctic Exploratory Drilling

The regulations have been raised to ensure high safety standards for drilling activities on the OCS.

The U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider has announced final regulations that will make sure future exploratory drilling activities on the U.S. Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are done with the highest safety and environmental standards.

According to a departmental news release, the regulations focus on operations from floating vessels within the U.S. Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. More specifically, they will ensure operators take steps to plan through all phases of OCS exploration in the Arctic, including mobilization, maritime transport and emergency response, and the conduct of safe drilling operations.

"With the United States as Chair of the Arctic Council, we are committed to demonstrating our leadership in governance and activities in the Arctic Region," said Schneider. "The regulations we are issuing today support the administration's thoughtful and balanced approach to any oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region. The rules help ensure that any exploratory drilling operations in this highly challenging environment will be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, while protecting the marine, coastal, and human environments, and Alaska Natives' cultural traditions and access to subsistence resources."

Now operators must develop an Integrated Operations Plan that addresses all phases of an exploration program and submit it to BOEM in advance. Companies must have access to source control and containment equipment.

"The unique Arctic environment raises substantial operational challenges," said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper. "These new regulations are carefully tailored to ensure that any future exploration activities will be conducted in a way that respects and protects this incredible ecosystem and the Alaska Native subsistence activities that depend on its preservation."

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