On Thursday, Michael Bromwich, chief regulator of the offshore oil industry, claimed the Interior Department expects new deepwater drilling permits to be issued sometime this summer. During discussions, he noted offshore permitting likely never would return to the pace set before the Deepwater Horizon disaster. After being asked when the pace of permitting would return to the pre-April 20 levels, Bromwich retorted, “The honest answer is, probably never.” Bromwich continued by expressing his thoughts on the return of deepwater drilling by adding, “It’s around the corner, just a longer block.”
Bromwich promised the Department of Interior is doing all it can to establish the new regulatory regime for deepwater drilling without shutting down the industry for longer than necessary. It is his intention to pursue reforms that are in line with the recommendations of the President’s National Oil Spill Commission, which released its conclusions Tuesday.
The industry feels the return of deepwater drilling is not just around the corner, as Bromwich would have us believe. Unfortunately, the only thing that is around the corner is a continued shutdown of a vital industry and, of course, higher energy prices for all Americans.
The National Oil Spill Commission’s final report lays out a number of comments and recommendations that lawmakers, industry and the public must seriously vet and review over the next few months. Industry’s response to the conclusions in the report have been ill-received and for just reasons. The unfair and unbalanced recommendations set forth in the report suggest the root causes of the BP oil spill were “systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”
To be clear, industry does not take the position no reform is needed in light of the tragic oil spill; however, the report’s conclusions and demonization of an entire industry for the missteps and accident of a few companies are unfair and unwarranted.
History will show industry has gone above and beyond taking the proper measures for safety preparedness and practices in its operations in the outer continental shelf. First and foremost, companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico have kept safety in mind for the environment and for their employees for decades. Since 1947, more than 50,000 successful wells have been drilled in the Gulf of Mexico with no serious environmental or safety occurrence. Of those wells, nearly 14,000 have been drilled in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico without an incident of this magnitude. The success rate of the offshore industry is not attributable to luck or sound federal regulation. The more than 60-year successful track record of the offshore industry is due, in part, to a safety-first culture. With these facts in mind, it is discouraging the Oil Spill Commission has attempted to deflect blame for the well blowout towards an entire industry.
Industry practices in regards to safety always have been ahead of the curve to legislative measures. A panel of ill-experienced bureaucrats in Washington knows little about the complexities of offshore drilling. Companies that operate in the Gulf of Mexico do so in real-time. It’s imperative we put an end to the stall tactics and get deepwater drilling back online.
Don Briggs is the President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.