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API Moves to Establish Offshore Safety Center

A trade group representing oil and natural gas producers is taking steps to create a Center for Offshore Safety, which mirrors the industry-managed offshore safety institute proposed by the presidential commission on the BP plc oil spill earlier this year (see Daily GPI, Jan. 12). The API's action comes only days after the Interior Department made its first move towards creating an offshore energy safety institute.

"This is a rollout of the institute" proposed by the BP commission, said John Modine, director of the American Petroleum Institute's (API) global industry services, which will be involved with the new offshore safety center. The board of directors of API Thursday endorsed the center.

The BP commission, in its report on the BP Macondo well blowout and subsequent oil spill, said it was "essential [that the] safety institute operate apart from API," which it claimed is "culturally ill-suited to drive a safety revolution" in the industry.

"We disagree with the oil spill commission on that part," Modine said. He further noted that Commission Co-Chair William Reilly, who was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush, "has since changed his opinion on that," and he believes it makes sense to use API's technical resources.

The safety center will be organized, run and administered by API, but it will be separate from the producer group's lobbying activities, he said. A new governing board -- which would include offshore operators, manufacturers of offshore equipment, and service and supply companies -- will determine "what the center will look like," will oversee the safety activities and hire an executive director.

The center would be based in Houston and be open to all offshore oil and gas operators, not just API members, Modine said. The members would pay a membership fee that would go toward funding the center. He said it was too early to estimate the cost of membership.

API's goal is to have the operational framework for the safety center worked out, the governing board selected and an executive director hired by the end of the year, Modine said.

In an unrelated development, Interior has announced the industry, academic and federal government representatives who will sit on its Ocean Energy Advisory Committee, which is seen as the first step in establishing a proposed Ocean Energy Safety Institute (see Daily GPI, March 15).

The committee would make recommendations to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Michel Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), on how best to establish the safety institute within the department, said Brad J. Blythe, an oceanographer with BOEM who is the designated federal official for the committee.

"This is completely separate from what the API is doing" in creating an offshore safety center, he said. "API is free to do whatever they want to do."

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