Salazar: Cuban offshore drilling 'issue of concern'

While the Obama administration has touted its efforts to work with Mexico to ensure a common safety standard for drilling in the Gulf, the extent to which administration officials are working with Cuba on the issue is unclear.

But Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich told reporters Tuesday that U.S. officials have met with executives at Repsol to discuss their plans to drill in the Gulf. Bromwich said U.S. officials plan to continue discussion with Repsol executives.

Salazar, in remarks Tuesday, added that the Interior Department is working with the State Department to ensure that any drilling off Cuba’s coastline, which is just 60 miles from the tip of Florida, is safe.

“What we will do is within the framework of our national policy to make sure that it is done in as safe a way as possible,” Salazar said. “That’s something that we are working on with the State Department and BOEM.”

But the Cuban government did not participate in a forum Thursday in Washington in which officials from a dozen countries and the European Union discussed drilling safety.

“As global neighbors, we have a shared responsibility to improve the safety of offshore energy development around the world,” Salazar said in a statement on the forum Thursday. “Today’s dialogue has laid a strong foundation for international cooperation in the name of safety, and I look forward to continuing to work with these countries to develop advanced containment technologies.”

An Interior Department spokeswoman declined to give details on the extent to which U.S. officials are working with Cuba to ensure adequate safety standards are in place in that country.

The spokeswoman directed The Hill’s questions to the State Department. The State Department did not immediately return a call for comment.

In the aftermath of last-year’s massive oil spill, the Interior Department issued a series of beefed-up safety standards that include requiring companies to prove they can contain a major well blowout.

In recent months, Salazar has focused in part on ensuring that those safety standards are applied throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Salazar and Bromwich have worked with Mexican officials to develop what they've called a “gold standard” of safety when it comes to Gulf drilling.