Under Questioning by Rep. Markey, Drilling Agency Head Says New BP Standards Will Be Examined for Industry;

Markey, Holt Introduce Legislation to Charge Oil Companies Safety Inspection Fees

WASHINGTON (July 15, 2011) – BP’s announced voluntary safety standards for offshore drilling demonstrate that the industry at large can adopt more stringent safety requirements, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said today at a Congressional hearing featuring the drilling safety agency director. The director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Michael Bromwich, responded to questions by Rep. Markey that his agency would look into the feasibility of these new standards for other oil companies. Congressional Republicans have blocked legislation, including a comprehensive bill authored by Rep. Markey, to update offshore drilling safety.

“BP’s new voluntary safety standards demonstrate that other oil companies can adopt similarly stringent standards, and it is time for the oil industry and their Republican allies in Congress to drop their opposition to stronger requirements,” said Rep. Markey, the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee. “If BP can do this, so can everyone else.”

BP announced today that it would be voluntarily updating standards for blowout preventers and third-party review of cementing procedures and quality. The BP Oil Spill Commission established following the Gulf of Mexico spill said that the safety and management deficiencies uncovered during the BP spill were systemic to the entire oil and gas industry. When House Republicans pushed legislation to open up new areas to drilling with accelerated safety review timetables, Rep. Markey offered an amendment to the legislation on the House floor that would have enacted reforms from the BP spill commission. House Republicans voted down that legislation.

During the hearing today, Rep. Markey and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), the Ranking Member of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, introduced legislation that would overturn the decision by House Republicans to allow oil companies to enjoy free safety inspections of their drilling facilities. The legislation, the No Free Inspections for Oil Companies Act, would give BOEMRE the authority to collect fees to cover the costs of inspections of offshore oil and gas operations. Those feed will be placed in a separate ocean energy enforcement fund and will be available only for the purpose of carrying out inspections on outer continental shelf facilities.

During questioning by Rep. Holt, Bromwich stated that those funds were needed to provide full safety review of rigs and allow for the hiring of more inspectors and other staff that will allow offshore drilling to continue swiftly and safely. Because House Republicans on the Appropriations Committee failed to include these fees as part of BOEMRE’s authority, the agency would see a $35 million cut in their budget.

“You pay a fee when you get your car inspected. Why should the oil industry get a free ride when it’s time for our safety inspectors to look under their hoods?” asked Rep. Markey. “This legislation will end yet another free giveaway to the oil companies by House Republicans.”

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