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Interior proposes changes to Obama-era rule on blowout preventers

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement in the U.S. Department of the Interior has proposed replacing or altering rules for offshore oil and gas production safety systems that were put in place late in the Obama administration.

In a notice published in the Dec. 29 Federal Register, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, said the proposed changes would "reduce certain unnecessary regulatory burdens imposed under the existing regulations, while correcting errors and clarifying current requirements."

The Obama administration's final rule was put in place six years after the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident killed 11 people and caused the largest oil spill in the history of the Gulf of Mexico.

At the time, the Interior Department said the rule had a focus on blowout preventer requirements, well design, well control casing, cementing, real-time monitoring and subsea containment. "The measures are designed to improve equipment reliability, especially for blowout preventers and blowout prevention technologies," the department said. "The rule requires operability of equipment through rigorous testing and provides for the continuous oversight of operations, all with the goal of improving the reliability of equipment and systems to protect workers' lives and the environment from the potentially devastating effects of blowouts and offshore oil spills."

BSEE said in its Dec. 29 Federal Register notice that alterations to the provisions of the rule would help ensure domestic "energy dominance" but not reduce existing safety standards. It also said the changes would lead to significant savings for the agency.

"Over 10 years BSEE estimates the reduced compliance burdens and cost savings to be $281 million discounted at 3% or $228 million discounted at 7%," BSEE said.