Director Kevin M. Sligh Sr.
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
U.S. Department of the Interior
Regulations and Standards Branch
456000 Woodland Road
Sterling, VA 20166
Submitted via the Federal E-rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov
Subject: Comment in response to Proposed Rulemaking: Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf-Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Revisions;
Docket ID: BSEE-2022-0009; EEEE500000 223E1700D2 ET1SF0000.EAQ000;
Dear Director Sligh:
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) submits the following comment in response to the request by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) for comment on a new proposed rulemaking, published in the Federal Register on September 12, 2022.1 The final rule will revise certain provisions that had been published in the 2019 final Well Control Rule (WCR) to clarify blowout preventer (BOP) system requirements and to modify certain specific BOP equipment capability requirements. We appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on this important rulemaking.
POGO is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing. We champion reforms to achieve a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government that safeguards constitutional principles.
Since 2018, we have published seven investigations and an analysis into federal offshore drilling safety. They include POGO’s observations and recommendations that caution against the safety rollbacks that had been proposed in the 2019 WCR. POGO supports addressing weaknesses in the 2019 WCR, and provides information on how to do so below.
- Improve BOP system requirements. In 2018, POGO explained how existing requirements did not ensure that blowout preventers were capable of containing a blowout in all circumstances.2
- Require failure analyses and investigations to start within a shortened timeframe. The proposed rule change would “ensure that the operator starts a failure investigation and analysis within 90 days of the failure instead of within 120 days.”3 In the 2018 investigation, POGO reported that failure analyses are not always preformed on schedule, or as required.4 It is critical to understand the root cause of failure in order to prevent reoccurrence.5
- Require accreditation of independent third-party investigator qualifications. The proposed rule change would “require independent third parties to be accredited by a qualified standards development organization.”6 In the 2018 investigation, POGO illustrated, with a variety of examples, why key information about the equipment should be inspected by third parties who are accredited.7
- Establish dual shear ram requirements for surface BOPs on existing floating facilities when an operator replaces an entire surface BOP stack. The proposed rule change would require an operator to “follow the BOP requirements of §250.734(a)(1) when replacing an entire surface BOP stack on an existing floating production facility.”8 In 2018, POGO reported on the importance of ram design and ram testing and discussed the importance of sheer ram redundancies.9
- Require submittal of certain BOP testing results if BSEE is unable to witness testing. The proposed rule change would “require the operator to provide test results to BSEE within 72 hours after completion of the tests if BSEE is unable to witness testing.”10 In 2018, POGO reported that even if BSEE is unable to witness the testing, it should add — not remove — important potential sources of accountability.11
We have included our analysis and investigations in the attached enclosures.
Thank you for your consideration of this comment. If you have any questions, please contact me at [email protected].
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