The Interior Department is accepting nominations from federal agencies, industry, academia, national and research organizations for representatives to serve on the newly established Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), last week announced the creation of the 13-member committee, which would advise BOEM and Interior on a number of issues related to offshore energy safety, including drilling and workplace safety, well intervention and containment and oil spill response (see Daily GPI, Jan. 20). Tom Hunter, former director of the Sandia National Laboratory, has been asked to head the advisory committee.

The safety committee is the first step toward the creation of a proposed industry-run Ocean Energy Safety Institute, which would promote collaborative research and development, and training in areas related to offshore energy safety. The safety committee would provide advice on how best to form the institute, and on what role the committee should play in the institute, according to Interior officials.

The final report on the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, which was released earlier this month, proposed the establishment of a “safety institute that is entirely controlled and managed by industry, which enforces best practice, which evaluates, which audits and which grades the performance of various companies,” said William Reilly, co-chair of the presidential commission, which held hearings into the BP well blowout and issued the final report (see Daily GPI, Jan. 12). The safety institute would supplement the government’s oversight of industry operations.

There has been resistance from both industry and Congress to the concept of a safety institute, but Reilly said, “We’re going to make a lot of noise” to win support this time around. Both co-chairs — Reilly, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton administration; and Bob Graham, former senator and government from Florida — are scheduled to testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

“We are looking for the best minds from industry, academia and the scientific community” to sit on the safety committee, Salazar said. “This group will serve as a channel through which America’s leading scientific, engineering and technical experts will be able to provide continuing contributions on strengthening safety in offshore energy exploration and development on the Outer Continental Shelf,” Bromwich said.

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