The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is the lead federal agency charged with improving safety and ensuring environmental protection related to the offshore energy industry, primarily oil and natural gas, on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). BSEE is also responsible for ensuring facilities in State waters are maintaining response plans as required by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Under President Trump, BSEE is conducting more inspections, increasing the number of safety initiatives and ensuring more offshore oil and gas workers receive critical safety information.
The U.S. Government began regulating the offshore energy and mineral extraction industry in the late 1940s, but its jurisdiction was not firmly established until passage of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) of 1953. From 1953 until 2011, predecessor agencies regulated activities on the Outer Continental Shelf. After the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in April 2010, BSEE was established in an effort to separate regulatory responsibilities from activities concerning lease sales and revenue generation (which are now overseen by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Office of Natural Resource Revenue (ONRR)).
BSEE’s creation on October 1, 2011 resulted in a process of continuous regulatory standardization and enhancement. A number of practical changes have occurred since 2011 including the expansion of Safety and Environmental Management Systems, enactment of the Well Control Rule, finalization of the Arctic Rule and the Decommissioning Costs Rule, creation of a near-miss reporting system (SafeOCS), and launching joint inspections with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Since the first offshore well was established off the coast of California in the early twentieth century, America has seen a rapid expansion of oil and gas exploration in the marine environment. Concurrently, the U.S. Government established protocols that would allow the nation’s energy needs to be met while safeguarding our oceans and coastlines. The creation of BSEE was the most recent effort to learn from the past and establish a focused regulatory authority staffed with subject matter experts.