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Based on lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon accident, the BSEE and Coast Guard designed how to work together to strengthen response to offshore incidents.
A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) that outlines what the two agencies are doing to strengthen response to offshore spills through oil discharge planning, preparedness and response for offshore facilities used for drilling, production or related activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
"The complexity of the offshore energy segment requires us to build federal partnerships that will improve safety and environmental protection in the offshore environment,” said director of response policy Rear Admiral Cari B. Thomas. "This MOA clearly establishes a strong framework of capabilities that protects America's economic interests and those that work in offshore environment."
This new agreement incorporates many lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and outlines the jurisdictions of both agencies, elaborating on responsibilities within regional response teams and area committees, oil spill response plans, drills and exercises, equipment inspections, training, and research and development.
The BSEE is responsible for the development, oversight and enforcement of safety and environmental standards for offshore energy operations while the USCG is the pre-designated federal on-scene coordinator (FOSC) for oil and hazardous substance pollution incidents that occur.
"Recent events have taught us the value of developing strong partnerships with our federal partners," said BSEE deputy director Margaret N. Schneider. "This agreement with the Coast Guard allows us to continue this close working relationship, strengthening our coordinated efforts to protect the environment and workers offshore each and every day."
In case of an oil discharge or threat of discharge, BSEE has primary responsibility for monitoring and directing all efforts related to securing the source of the discharge and reestablishing control.
The Coast Guard is responsible for directing and monitoring all response efforts, including recovering oil discharged and mitigating adverse impacts.
According to the MOA, BSEE will notify and provide the USCG with access to digital copies of oil spill response plans and will incorporate USCG suggested revisions to the extent practicable.
The BSEE decision-making processes may be critically informed by the USCG based on expertise acquired during its role as the FOSC.
The MOA covers: regional response teams and area committees; oil spill response plans, National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program; unannounced drills; equipment inspections; oil spill response training; spill management team training; oil discharge reporting; oil discharge response; discharge abatement and production resumption; pollution events databases; enforcement; interagency training; and research and development.
The USCG and BSEE will coordinate research activities in partnership or through the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research. The two agencies will collaborate in identifying research priorities, co-funding projects, and sharing information and best practices.
Regarding enforcement, the agencies will notify each other regarding any enforcement actions taken. To assist the USCG in determining an appropriate enforcement or compliance action, upon request, BSEE will provide available information on the affected facility or response plan.
The USCG maintains a database that includes information on all oil discharges that impact the coastal zone – called Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement. The database maintained by BSEE details offshore incidents, oil discharges and enforcement actions. Unclassified data in the Technical Information Management System is available to the public on the BSEE website.
As far as possible, the two agencies will coordinate data collection efforts related to platform evacuations, oil discharge volume estimates, facility damage and production recovery. Digital information on offshore operators and oil discharges will be shared to improve offshore safety performance.
Both agencies will cooperate on response plans, regional response teams and area committees.
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