June 19, 2013
NSPE achieved a victory in August when the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a final rule that makes permanent the additional safety measures authorized after the fatal explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon offshore rig and subsequent oil spill in 2010. The rule requires PEs to be more involved in the design and certification of offshore oil wells.
Immediately after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the federal government pushed for increased safety and accountability measures for the offshore oil and gas industry and within the agency that oversees the industry. The rule is based on recommendations of a safety measures report issued by the Department of the Interior in May 2010. The Secretary of the Interior directed the agency to adopt and promptly implement the recommendations.
NSPE General Counsel Arthur Schwartz provided comments to the Chemical Safety Board in December 2010 that professional engineers should supervise all engineering design, operations, and maintenance of offshore oil wells. He emphasized that PEs are bound by a code of ethics to make decisions only in their area of expertise and to protect public health and safety above all other concerns.
The National Research Council also recently advised the BSEE to seek consultation to develop a "culture of safety" in addition to implementing inspections, operator audits, bureau audits, key performance indicators, and a whistleblower program to increase safety.
The final rule includes measures to ensure sufficient redundancy in blowout preventers; promote the integrity and control of wells; and facilitate a culture of safety through operational and personnel management. The rule requires that professional engineers do the following:
The rule also requires independent third parties to conduct blowout preventer inspections. These third parties must be licensed professional engineers, professional engineering firms, or technical classification societies.
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