New Offshore Drilling Rule A Good First Step Toward the Safeguards We Need

WASHINGTON (September 30, 2010) -- The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued a new rule today aimed at improving the safety of offshore drilling operations.

The following is a statement from Natural Resources Defense Council Executive Director Peter Lehner:

“This is a good first step toward strengthening the safeguards we need to help prevent a repeat of the catastrophic blow out that poisoned Gulf waters, threw thousands of Americans out of work and destroyed rich habitat, fish and wildlife this summer. It reflects hard lessons learned from this disaster at grievous cost to the Gulf, its people and our nation.

“The new protections add a needed measure of transparency, oversight and certainty to the drilling process, from the well design to the way pipes are positioned and cemented in place. They require that decision-makers on rigs have proper training in offshore operations; that blow out preventers be in working order and up to the job; and that remotely operated vehicles - undersea robots - be in place at all times, along with standby crews able to guide them.

“Similar protections are contained in legislation the House passed in July. Now the Senate needs to act. That will give these needed safeguards the weight of statutory law that cannot be changed with the stroke of a pen. 

“More will be needed, and we await the findings early next year of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling for further guidance. Right now, Congress needs to endow the commission with subpoena power so it has the tools it needs to do its job. And legislation is needed to further reduce the risks of offshore oil development to our environment and to require Senate confirmation of the new directors of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

“Ultimately, Congress must act to help the nation break its addiction to oil and start moving the country toward cleaner, safer, more sustainable sources of power and fuel. We can do this through common-sense strategies using available technologies – and there’s no excuse for not doing so. That is the great lesson of this disaster. That is the stark warning the nation must heed.”