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Tanker transferring crude oil at America’s only deepwater port 18 miles offshore in a 56-square-mile safety zone

As COVID-19 presses America into uncharted territory, the Gulf of Mexico has a story of resilience.

Like every other challenge, offshore energy workers are approaching COVID-19 head-on, taking proactive measures. Their efforts are realizing tangible results with COVID-19 rate that is far below onshore.

How the offshore industry is responding to COVID-19 is one snapshot of how safety performance is the top priority for companies and workers in the Gulf.

Over the past 10 years, America’s offshore industry has been at the forefront of developing new safety equipment and improving safety standards. One example of the offshore safety focus is the offshore drilling Well Control Rule. The rule is a study in how industry and government can align to the betterment of safety and environmental performance.

Tailored improvements were made to the rule in 2019 in a way that provides clarity while preserving safety performance standards. For instance, changes to the “drilling margin” provision in the rule still maintain the same performance standards as before. In the Obama-era version of the rule, companies could still apply for the same alternative procedures that they can today. However, under today’s rule, there are explicit criteria that must be met if a company decides they want to apply for use of a different drilling margin.

Likewise, claims that the new rule throws out real-time monitoring standards and the requirements for independent third parties are untrue. Real-time monitoring is still a requirement, there is only more flexibility that allows companies to innovate with new technologies for shoreside monitoring. And companies are still required to use independent third parties for review and verification

This is typical from the rulemaking process; regulations evolve and improve over time.

President Obama established a seven-person National Oil Spill Commission to make fundamental recommendations to increase offshore safety. A 2014 letter from the commission co-chairs stated that industry and regulators are “working together to create a safety-conscious culture in the offshore drilling industry.”

Part of what makes the Gulf Coast energy community special is that it follows likely the toughest regulatory regime in the world. U.S. offshore production provides vast amounts of energy with a comparatively smaller environmental footprint and higher worker safety standards.

Every barrel of oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico is a barrel that American consumers do not have to import from countries like Russia or Venezuela. We should recognize the irreplaceable service the men and women of the offshore industry continue to provide our nation.

ERIK MILITO

National Ocean Industries Association

Washington, D.C.

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