The Interior Department issued a new directive Friday to oil and gas lessees and operators requiring them to submit information that addresses prevention measures for a possible blowout, and then followed up Monday with the swearing in of Michael R. Bromwich who will take over the restructuring of the Minerals Management Service into the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOE).

The new directive is in addition to a Notice to Lessees (NTL) issued earlier this month which laid out a series of new rules and requirements for all offshore drilling operations (see Daily GPI, June 9). The latest directive calls for lessees filing for a new drilling permit, exploration plan, or development plan to detail safety measures related to potential blowouts. and steps they are taking to prevent them.

It reverses a policy adopted in 2003 and included in a 2008 “Notice to Lessees” under the previous Administration that exempted many offshore oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico from submitting certain information — to accompany exploration or development plans — about a blowout scenario and worst-case discharge.

“The BP oil spill has laid bare fundamental shortcomings in the oil and gas industry’s ability to prevent and stop catastrophic blowouts,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “While the challenges of intervening in a catastrophic blowout are significantly greater in deepwater than in shallow water, all operators should provide basic information about potential blowouts, and steps that are being taken to reduce the possibility of a blow out. This is basic information that applicants should be able to provide; it should not delay permitting of appropriate shallow water drilling.”

Bromwich, a former Justice Department Inspector General and more recently a partner in the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris Shriver & Jacobson, was sworn in less than a week after his appointment was announced (see Daily GPI, June 16). “Michael Bromwich has a strong track record of reforming the way organizations work, both in the public and private sectors,” Salazar said.

The June 21 Notice to Lessees (“Blowout Scenario NTL”) requires oil and gas operators to submit information for Exploration Plans (EP), Development and Production Plans (DPP) and Development Operations Coordination Documents (DOCD) that includes:

Bromwich will take over the post vacated suddenly late last month by Liz Birnbaum, in a major shakeup of the MMS resulting from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time administration officials said the federal agency charged with inspecting oil and natural gas rigs and platforms in the offshore, has had a “cozy and corrupt relationship” with the oil and gas industry that led to “little or no regulation” in the offshore.

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