On 18 July, Colombia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy published new technical regulations for drilling exploratory wells to determine the presence of oil and gas in shallow-, deep- and ultra-deep waters in Colombian territory. The new regulations require safety management systems in accordance with API RP 75; BOPs in accordance with API Standard 53; training in accordance with OPITO or IMO standards; weekly function testing of the BOP; and MODUs in compliance with the IMO MODU Code.
On 6 July, US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3354 to streamline the oil and gas leasing permits process for work on onshore federal lands. In response, IADC President Jason McFarland issued this statement: “IADC appreciates Secretary Zinke’s dedication to reduce permitting times to encourage more interest in the development of our federal lands. The current processing time for onshore federal land leases discourages development of our nation’s resources. The revenue generated from this activity is an important source of funding for the Treasury, providing funds for National Parks and infrastructure, among other activities. Drilling contractors welcome this effort by the secretary to increase development on our nation’s federal lands.”
On 26 July, IADC joined with API, the National Ocean Industries Association, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors and the Offshore Operators Committee to offer comments in response to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) request for comments on designations and expansion of the national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments. In a joint letter sent to the NOAA, the associations noted that its members have significant interest in ensuring that future opportunities for offshore oil and natural gas exploration are not unduly restricted by expanding sanctuaries to include new geographic areas for which expansion is not necessary, or with boundaries in excess of those needed to protect appropriate areas. It also advocated for a regulatory environment where all agencies responsible for protection and use of the marine environment work together collaboratively to create straightforward, clear and consistent requirements.
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a part of the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB), recently published the current Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. It provides an updated report on the actions that administrative agencies plan to issue in the near and long term. The agenda represents the beginning of fundamental regulatory reform and a reorientation toward reducing unnecessary burdens.
The number of rules identified in the pre-rule, proposed rule or final rule are significantly reduced from the fall 2016 unified agenda. According to the OMB, the agenda represents the following developments:
• Agencies withdrew 469 actions proposed in the fall 2016 agenda;
• Agencies reconsidered 391 active actions by reclassifying them as long-term (282) and inactive (109), allowing for further careful review;
• Economically significant regulations fell to 58, or about 50% less than fall 2016; and
• For the first time, agencies will post and make public their list of “inactive” rules – providing notice to the public of regulations still being reviewed or considered.
On 26 July, 36 Republican senators sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in support of the Department of the Interior’s new Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Five-Year Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024. The plan promises to increase offshore access and development, which will in turn boost the economy, keep energy affordable and reinforce the United States’ position as an energy-dominant superpower.
A total of 94% of the federal OCS is currently unavailable for leasing. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the nation’s OCS contains 89.9 billion bbl of oil and 327.5 trillion cu ft of natural gas.
In the letter, the senators noted: “Offshore development has undergone rapid technological innovation, ensuring it is cheaper, safer and provides access to previously out-of-reach areas. Offshore leasing benefits the economies of all of the states, helps reduce the federal deficit, provides affordable energy to families and businesses and strengthens our national security.”
In their letter to Secretary Zinke, the senators concluded, “Offshore projects often have long lead times, so it is important to start today to make sure that the United States is planning for the future to maintain its steady and stable supply of production. We look forward to working with the Department of the Interior as you advance the new Five-Year Program.”