Ever since the unofficial Obama administration permitoreum began keeping the issuance of new gulf drilling permits effectively frozen, industry officials have been working overtime to meet each requirement and jump through every hoop demanded so they could return to work. Even though rigs have already begun leaving the gulf for lack of profitable activity, the major energy companies have continued efforts to work with the federal government to ensure that all safety considerations have been adequately addressed. On Friday, they received their answer.
The Obama administration’s top offshore drilling enforcer Friday asked major oil producers operating in the Gulf of Mexico to provide more details on plans to contain oil spills and runaway wells before the federal government will issue new permits to drill there.
The letters from Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich come amid criticism from energy producers and their congressional allies that the administration is slow-walking new offshore drilling permits in the wake of last year’s historic BP Gulf of Mexico spill.
He added that “once operators are able to submit information describing the equipment and systems that they would use in the event of a loss of well control for each operation for which a drilling permit is sought,” staff at BOEMRE will review that information when making a decision on a proposed deepwater drilling permit.
Back to the drawing board. Despite numerous investigations showing that the failure of the BP deep water rig last summer was the result of human error, and not some systemic lack of safety precautions, this letter puts the industry’s efforts effectively back to square one. The energy companies have made extensive and costly upgrades to their training procedures, as well as thorough reviews of all the equipment in use, but now it seems that BOEMRE wants them to do this work over again, essentially from scratch, for each specific drilling permit request.
The underlying signal here isn’t very subtle. You can have new drilling permits. Just stop by and ask for them in Hell. But be sure to bring a sweater.