Federal Offshore Regulations

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement currently oversees the regulations of the Offshore Oil & Gas Industry. The Offshore Regulatory Program develops standards and regulations to enhance operational safety and environmental protection for the exploration and development of offshore oil and natural gas on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The Oil Spill Response division is responsible for developing standards and guidelines for offshore operators’ Oil Spill Response Plans (OSRP) through internal and external reviews of industry OSRPs to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and coordination of oil spill drill activities. It also plays a critical role in the review and creation of policy, guidance, direction and oversight of activities related to the agency’s oil spill response. The division oversees the Unannounced Oil Spill Drill program and works closely with sister agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency to continually enhance response technologies and capabilities.

The newly created Environmental Enforcement Division is a first in the federal offshore energy regulatory program. This Division will provide sustained regulatory oversight that is focused on compliance by operators with all applicable environmental regulations, as well as making sure that operators keep the promises they make at the time they obtain their leases, submit their plans and apply for their permits.

BSEE is supported by three regional offices: New Orleans, La., Camarillo, Calif. and Anchorage, Alaska. The regional offices are responsible for reviewing Applications for Permit to Drill to ensure all of the recently implemented enhanced safety requirements are met and for conducting inspections of drilling rigs and production platforms using multi-person, multi-discipline inspection teams. BSEE’s inspectors issue Incidents of Non-Compliance and have the authority to fine companies through Civil Penalties for regulatory infractions. Regional and field operations personnel also investigate accidents and incidents.

BSEE operations are governed by a wide variety of laws, regulations, and other communications with the offshore industry. The Bureau enforces compliance with these regulations and periodically updates rules to reflect advancements in technology and new information.

  • Regulatory Reform – In response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama Administration launched the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation and oversight in U.S. history.
  • Federal Register Notices – Notices, Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking, Notices of Proposed Rulemaking, and Final Rules for BSEE regulatory actions.
  • Notices, Letters, and Information to Lessees – Communications with operators and contractors that further clarify regulations.
  • Safety Alerts – Safety Alerts are tools used by BSEE to inform the offshore oil and gas industry of the circumstances surrounding an incident or a near miss. They also contain recommendations that should help prevent the recurrence of such an incident on the OCS.
  • Regulations.gov – a U.S. government web site that enables the public to review and submit comments on Federal documents.