A federal agency that regulates offshore energy production in the Gulf of Mexico is focused on undoing or amending three Obama administration policies, the agency’s director, Scott Angelle, said Tuesday in a keynote address at an industry event in Lafayette.
Angelle, a household name in Louisiana politics, became director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, under President Donald Trump in May. Angelle previously served on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, and has run several unsuccessful campaigns for statewide offices, including for the 3rd Congressional District last year and governor in 2015.
He said his mandate within the Trump administration is to eliminate "unnecessary regulatory burdens” that discourage capital investment in the Gulf, while also remaining mindful of safety requirements and environmental safeguards.
Angelle told industry professionals gathered at the Cajundome for the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition they will enjoy warmer relations with the Trump administration than they did with the previous one.
“Over the last several years it’s been cool to put the regulated industry on the other side, and say ‘no, we can’t have a conversation with you all.’ I’m telling you we are moving from an era of isolation to an era of cooperation,” Angelle said. “I’m OK with calling you partners, and that’s some of the changes we are making in DC.”
Angelle aimed specifically at policies designed to encourage reporting of close-call safety incidents, stricter safety rules inspired by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and requirements for companies to prove they can cover any future decommissioning costs.
The decommissioning policies adopted last year were enacted through a series of rule changes by BSEE and a sister agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Angelle said the two agencies are now working together to restore “decommissioning sanity.” The Obama rules were poorly written, he said, and “didn’t recognize the value of the proven reserves in the ground to offset some of the liabilities.”
A Trump executive order in April required reconsideration of 2016 rules that tightened requirements for blowout preventer systems and well control. The rules stemmed from recommendations by a national commission focused on the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and spilled 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.
“You can bet we have teams looking at that, and looking at opportunities that they might revisit those rules with potential changes, with one direction: go get rid of unnecessary regulatory burdens,” Angelle said, punctuating his words for effect.
One Obama policy Angelle said he likes in principle, if not practice, is the SafeOCS reporting system, which allows companies to confidentially report dangerous incidents without fear of fines and penalties. Only 3 of 88 companies operating wells in the Outer Continental Shelf portion of the Gulf have enrolled in the program, for which $8 million has been allocated, Angelle said.
“We can learn from these near misses. A great idea,” Angelle said, adding that the Obama administration was "more interested in the celebration of announcing it than the execution of it.”