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Attorney General Josh Stein Opposes Plans to Weaken Offshore Drilling Regulations

Release date: 8/7/2018

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today submitted comments opposing the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) plans to significantly revise the Well Control Rule, formally known as the Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf – Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control regulations. The Well Control Rule, finalized two years ago after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, includes design and operational requirements for offshore drilling equipment, as well as more robust inspection, verification, and reporting requirements.

“Protecting the people of North Carolina also means protecting our environment and coastal economy,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I oppose efforts to weaken the regulations that safeguard our beautiful coast and its residents from environmental and economic damage.”

The BSEE has proposed to reduce or eliminate critical aspects of the Well Control Rule because, in BSEE’s view, they “unnecessarily burden the development of domestic energy resources” and “are not needed to ensure safe and responsible development” of offshore resources.

The Well Control Rule resulted from a four-year process of investigations, studies, and stakeholder input, with detailed identification of and responses to public comments. Input on the proposed rollback, by contrast, has come from a single public forum held in September 2017, along with various unidentified “discussions” and “questions from operators.” For some provisions that BSEE proposes to roll back, moreover, the compliance date has not yet even arrived. The proposed rollback of the Well Control Rule coincides with the Bureau of Ocean Management’s plans to expand offshore drilling and oil leasing to areas where they are currently nonexistent, including North Carolina’s coast. Attorney General Stein submitted comments opposing the BOEM’s plans earlier this year. Thus, BSEE’s proposal to weaken precautions meant to prevent spills comes at the same time as it proposes to bring offshore drilling to areas least equipped to respond to those spills. The Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred in April 2010 and led to the loss of 11 lives and a release of 134 million gallons of oil, covering 43,300 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico, causing extensive damage to 1,300 miles of shoreline across the Gulf Coast states. The environmental and socioeconomic harms were staggering—with widespread and severe effects on the entire Gulf economy, including the drilling, commercial fishing, recreation, and tourism industries, not to mention significant harm to wildlife and wetlands.

Attorney General Stein is joined in submitting today’s comments by Attorneys General from Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Oregon, and Washington.

A copy of the comments can be found here.

Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484


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