National Ocean Industries Association

Delayed by shutdown, US offshore drilling rule changes likely to be challenged by states

Work on controversial revisions to a US offshore drilling safety rule is currently being held up by the ongoing partial government shutdown, but when ultimately finalized, the changes will be challenged in court by multiple states, sources said.

The revisions, which make changes to the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control rule finalized in 2016 in response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, were initially proposed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement in April.

The proposed revisions have been under review at the White House since December 13, but sources said the officials in the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in charge of that review have been furloughed by the shutdown, which entered its 25th day Tuesday. Sources said, depending on when the shutdown ends, it could take weeks for that review to be completed and then some weeks more if Interior needs to make additional changes.

The proposed revisions to the offshore safety rule come as the Trump administration is working on expanding oil and natural gas drilling into federal Atlantic, Arctic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico waters. Interior was expected to release its proposed five-year offshore leasing plan for 2019 through 2024 by mid-January, but these plans have also been delayed indefinitely by the government shutdown, sources say.

Opponents of the well control rule revisions have criticized the administration for weakening offshore safety regulations as it looks to expand offshore drilling operations.

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