• Federal Reorganization of Offshore Energy Development
  • January 28, 2013 | Author: Grady S. Hurley
  • Law Firm: Jones Walker LLP - New Orleans Office
  • For decades, the Minerals Management Service ("MMS") of the Department of the Interior managed the exploration for and production of minerals on the Outer Continental Shelf ("OCS").

    Following the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the MMS was replaced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement ("BOEMRE"). Effective October 1, 2011, BOEMRE was replaced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management ("BOEM") and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement ("BSEE") as part of a major restructuring.

    BOEM manages offshore exploration from leasing to environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"). Regional offices are located in Louisiana, California and Alaska. All leasing and operations on the OCS are governed by various laws and regulations predicated upon ensuring safe operations and preservation of the environment while balancing national needs for energy development. BOEM has enforcement authority and compliance responsibilities. The regulations are set forth in the Federal Register Notices and Notices to Lessees.

    BSEE has oversight for safety and environmental concerns in offshore oil and gas development. It is directly responsible for permitting and enforcement. Its Offshore Regulatory Program develops standards and regulations for OCS operations. The Oil Spill Response Division oversees Oil Spill Response Plans ("OSRP"). Its Environmental Enforcement Division provides regulatory oversight focused on operator compliance. BSEE communicates via Notice to Lessees, Joint and Regional Safety Alerts, Drilling Safety Rules and its newly enacted Safety and Environmental Management Systems ("SEMS"). The four objectives of SEMS are:

    1. focused attention on the influences of human nature and poor organization on accidents;
    2. continuous improvement in the offshore industry safety and environmental records;
    3. encourage performance-based operating practices; and
    4. collaboration with industry to promote public interest in offshore safety and
      environmental protection.

    Post-Deepwater Horizon, the government has enacted significant new safeguards and oversight under BOEM and BSEE, which must be considered by every operator working on the OCS.