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US plans new offshore drilling rule

US plans new offshore drilling rule
© Getty images

The Obama administration will release a new rule as soon as Monday that aims to prevent offshore drilling disasters like the major Gulf of Mexico oil spill five years ago.

The Interior Department’s rule will be timed to coincide with the anniversary of the explosion at BP’s Macondo well on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, which killed 11 and caused a uncontrolled oil spill for 87 days, the New York Times reported late Friday.

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The regulation would set strict new standards for blowout preventers, which act as part a drilling rig’s backup systems for stopping oil and gas well explosions.

The BP disaster was blamed in part on a pipe that buckled, but the rig’s blowout preventer did not work as intended.

The blowout preventer standards would be the third major regulation the Obama administration has published in response to the BP spill. The disaster also resulted in a complete overhaul of Interior’s regulatory structure for offshore drilling, including spinning off the safety oversight into its own agency.

It will come shortly after the administration proposed to allow some offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, and while it considers whether Royal Dutch Shell should be allowed to drill in the Arctic Ocean.

Regulators need to show that they can effectively oversee the industry, the Times said.

“We’re coming on five years, and we’ve been working tirelessly in the regulation division since it happened,” Allyson Anderson, associate director of strategic engagement in Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told the Times. “We’ve doubled down on building a culture of safety.”

Environmentalists told the Times they were skeptical that the federal government’s actions are going far enough in improving offshore safety.