While Congress gets the majority of news attention, most policymaking details are worked out by the various departments and agencies. Through regulations and other activities, these entities can significantly impact on how companies operate and the safety of operations in the oilfield.
As part of efforts to provide this technical input PESA interacts regularly with various agencies, including the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) regarding the upcoming Well Control Rule (WCR).
The WCR, which was proposed by BSEE in April 2015, would set new federal requirements for many elements of offshore oil and gas production, including standards for blowout preventers, drilling margin requirements, and equipment design and inspection certifications.
PESA was part of a cross-industry public comment letter that was submitted to BSEE in July. The agency is currently continuing to review the comments submitted by trade associations, individual companies, environmental organizations, and private citizens before finalizing the regulation sometime later in 2016.
The oil and gas industry has sent a message of general support for the concepts within the WCR, tempered by concern over specific technical provisions and a desire for continued engagement with BSEE. This point has also been made by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holding a hearing in early December on the WCR.
“This is an extremely technical rule, and more engagement and information between the technical experts from industry and BSEE is key to ensuring this rule strikes the right balance without negatively impacting safety through unintended consequences,” said Ryan Bowley, PESA VP Operations and External Affairs.
In this summer’s industry comment letter and as part of the BSEE meeting in December, PESA and several member companies raised technical concerns with the details of this complex rule. Several of these touch on the potential of the rule to slow down the pace of innovation through prescriptive requirements.
“Additionally, industry representatives have raised technical concerns about the feasibility of several of the requirements,” said Bowley. “When regulations get to the level of technical detail as spelled out in the WCR, individual words matter a great deal.”
“In policy areas such as this where our members are directly impacted, PESA provides a unique venue for companies to raise industry-wide issues and voice them under the umbrella of PESA,” said PESA President Leslie Beyer. “This is another way PESA provides focused service to the oilfield service, supply, and manufacturing community.”
According to the regulatory calendar, the WCR Final Rule will be issued sometime in the first quarter of 2016. PESA will provide updates once the regulation is issued. If you have any questions about the WCR or other government policymaking activity, do not hesitate to contact Bowley at [email protected].