Oil lobby: Drilling safety rule might increase risk

Though Interior has said it would resolve that issue when it finalizes the rule, API Group Director of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito said that remains to be seen.  

Milito noted that the word "should" occurred 14,000 times in the rule. Changing it to "must" would add risk in some cases, he said, by requiring oil and gas companies to perform unnecessary tasks. 

Forcing drillers to unnecessarily repeat tasks that involve heavy lifting is one of those potential harms, Milito said. Gratuitous pressure testing requirements could also weaken safety measures, he said.

Milito said he does not expect many differences between the interim and final rules. But remedying the “should to must” provision, as Milito called it, is essential.

“I’m confident, but until we see the final language we’re going to have outstanding concerns,” he said.

The interim rule, first issued in late September 2010, includes new standards for well designs, requires third-party verification that subsea “blowout preventers” can close off drill-pipes and many other measures.

— This story was updated at 4:00 p.m.