Government Proposes New Rules for Offshore Drilling in Arctic Ocean | Oceana

Government Proposes New Rules for Offshore Drilling in Arctic Ocean

Press Release Date: February 22, 2015



Anna Baxter | email:
Anna Baxter

Today the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) released draft spill prevention and response regulations for oil and gas activities in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. Among other requirements, the new rules would require companies operating in the Arctic Ocean to have the capacity to drill a relief well in the event of a blowout.

The announcement comes in the wake of Shell’s failed 2012 efforts to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean and lessons learned from BP’s failures to contain or clean up the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. 

Ironically, despite the rules partially being a result of Shell’s own mistakes, Shell argued to the White House Office of Management and Budget that these rules are unnecessary and too expensive.

In addition, the Alaska Law Review published an article earlier this month about the need for more expansive regulatory reform of offshore oil and gas activities in the Arctic.  The article was co-authored by Michael LeVine, Pacific Senior Counsel for Oceana.

Susan Murray, Oceana’s Deputy Vice President, Pacific, issued the following statement:

“We applaud the government for recognizing that existing oil and gas regulations are not adequate.  The new rules clearly are needed and are an improvement, but they do not ensure safe and responsible operations in the Arctic Ocean.  There is no proven way to respond to a spill in icy Arctic waters and, as Shell unfortunately demonstrated, companies simply are not ready for the Arctic Ocean.  Until and unless companies can operate safely and without harming the Arctic Ocean ecosystem, the government has no business allowing them into the region.

This is a good first step, but there are fundamental problems with how the government regulates oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf.  This type of specific, targeted reform can be the start of a broader process designed to update the outdated regulations that guide planning, leasing, and exploration.  We encourage the government to undertake meaningful, comprehensive reform.”