USA: Obama Requests USD 222.2 mln for BSEE

The U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday announced his budget request for $222.2 million to fund the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) in fiscal year 2013.

While Congress provided a specific appropriation for BSEE for FY 2012, this is the first stand-alone budget request for the new organization. The bureau promotes safe, environmentally responsible energy development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf through vigorous regulatory oversight and enforcement activities.

The request, a $25 million (13 percent) increase above FY 2012, provides the resources needed to carry out BSEE’s core functions, which include offshore regulatory programs; oil spill response planning; safety inspections, enforcement and investigations; environmental enforcement and compliance; well and production permitting; and production and development.

“Today’s budget proposal provides the necessary resources for BSEE to firmly establish itself as a world class offshore safety regulator,” said BSEE Director James A. Watson.

“We are stepping up our efforts to efficiently process drilling permits, provide better training for our inspectors and engineers, and enforce current requirements while continuing to search for better ways to protect the offshore environment.”

The President’s FY 2013 budget request for BSEE will be offset by $125.9 million in offsetting collections. This includes $65.0 million in inspection fees, $52.5 million in rental receipts and $8.4 million in cost recovery fees charged to industry. This is an increase in offsetting collections of $4.8 million above the FY 2012 enacted level.

Safety first

This year’s budget request continues to place a priority on operational safety programs. The request includes increases totaling $14.7 million to support BSEE’s continued efforts to ensure that drilling permit applications are judiciously and efficiently processed, an appropriate number of offshore inspections are conducted, risk-based inspection protocols are developed, incidents are thoroughly investigated, and enforcement actions are quickly assessed. This includes $3.7 million for the newly-established National Offshore Training and Learning Center to support the creation of credible and up-to-date training programs to serve as the focal point for the continuous education and training of the bureau’s safety inspectors, environmental enforcement officers, and engineers.

The budget includes an increase of $4.2 million for environmental enforcement, a new function that addresses recommendations resulting from various investigations following the Deepwater Horizon incident. BSEE will use the increase to hire, train, equip and support personnel to conduct environmental inspections, Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) audits, and other activities.

In order to minimize duplication of services as part of the reorganization of the former Minerals Management Service, BSEE continues to provide support services for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). An additional $5.0 million is requested to sustain administrative support functions for BSEE and BOEM operations as the level of activity for the two bureaus grows.

The budget request includes strategic investments in research and development for offshore safety and response programs, including oil spill response research. This work assists BSEE with finding improved responses to offshore oil discharges while addressing the many lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon response. Research will focus on improving response tactics while also finding new and more efficient ways to remove oil from the water’s surface.

 Oil spill response testing

To further ongoing research, BSEE operates Ohmsett, the only facility where full-scale oil spill response testing, research and training can be conducted in a marine environment with oil or other substances under controlled environmental conditions (waves and oil types). Located in New Jersey, the facility is utilized by Federal, state, local and private oil spill response organizations. The request includes $14.9 million for oil spill research, equal with the FY 2012 enacted level.

The FY 2013 request is a continuation of the Obama Administration’s plan to complete the reorganization of the former Minerals Management Service and establish a base operating level consistent with the recommendations from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and the National Academy of Engineering’s report on the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Offshore Energy Today Staff, February 14, 2012

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