Headlines: BOEMRE – “Idle Iron” decommissioning guidance for offshore rigs; Joint Investigation – RMI letter re DWH documentation; National Commission – meeting; USN – emergent repairs to coastal patrol vessels; Alaska – barge aground on North Slope; EPA – technical amendments re marine spark-ignition engines; House – bill introduced to restore Gulf coastal areas; House – bill introduced re use of dispersants in oil spills; House – bill introduced re export and import of natural gas; Senate – hearing on defenses against nuclear terrorism; Court – local agency may not regulate air emissions from trains; EP – call for Arctic governance; Canada – maritime transportation goals; and Russia & Norway – maritime boundary agreement.
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BOEMRE – “Idle Iron” decommissioning guidance for offshore rigs
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) issued a Notice to Lessees providing guidance concerning the decommissioning of nonproducing offshore wells, platforms, and pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico. The Notice, which will become effective on October 15, requires that so-called “idle iron” be fully decommissioned in a timely manner and no later than one year following expiration of the lease. This will require wells to be plugged and rigs and pipelines to be removed. For any existing well that has not been used for exploration or production during the past five years, a plan for decommissioning must be submitted to BOEMRE within 120 days. (9/15/10). Note: There are approximately 3,500 nonproducing oil and gas wells and 650 inactive rigs in the GOM. Well plugging and structure dismantling on this scale will be a major undertaking.
Joint Investigation – RMI letter re DWH documentation
The Joint Investigation of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) marine casualty posted a copy of the letter received from the Maritime Administrator of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) relating to documentation of the DWH. The letter states that, while the erroneous document issued to the DWH might have allowed it to not have a master on board when the unit was “on location”, the evidence shows that the DWH had both a master and an offshore installation manager (OIM) on board at all times relevant to the investigation. (9/14/10).
National Commission – meeting
The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, sponsored by the Department of Energy, will conduct an opening meeting in Washington, DC on September 27 and 28. Topics on the agenda include the response following the oil spill, impacts on the Gulf, and approaches to long-term restoration. 75 Fed. Reg. 56526 (September 16, 2010).
USN – emergent repairs to coastal patrol vessels
The US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) issued a press release stating that inspections of Cyclone-class patrol coastal (PC) vessels homeported in Bahrain and Norfolk have revealed significant structural damage. Operations of these vessels in the Persian Gulf have ceased until the PC can be repaired, which will be undertaken on an emergent basis. NAVSEA is coordinating with the US Coast Guard for inspections of the three PCs currently on loan to that service. Information is also being shared with the Republic of the Philippines to enable inspection of the PC previously transferred to that nation. With one exception, the PCs are at or beyond their design service life. (9/15/10).
Alaska – barge aground on North Slope
The US Coast Guard issued a news release stating that a barge carrying 1,200 gallons of fuel oil has grounded on the North Slope of Alaska in the Beaufort Sea. There have been no reports on injury to the persons on board, but a small sheen of oil was observed. Containment boom is being placed around the vessel. A lightering and salvage plan is being developed. (9/15/10).
EPA – technical amendments re marine spark-ignition engines
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a direct final rule regarding portable marine fuel tanks for marine spark-ignition engines and the fuel systems on related vessels. The amended rules were developed in cooperation with engine and vessel manufacturers and will come into effect on November 15, unless adverse comment is received by October 18. 75 Fed. Reg. 56477 (September 16, 2010). Note: This is an example of how various regulations can and should be developed. While not all regulatory changes are amenable to this process, many are.
House – bill introduced to restore Gulf coastal areas
Representative Scalise (R-LA) introduced the Gulf Coast Restoration Act (H.R. 6112) to provide for restoration of the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and for other purposes. (9/14/10).
House – bill introduced re use of dispersants in oil spills
Representative Pallone (D-NJ) introduced a bill (H.R. 6119) to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to ensure the safe and proper use of dispersants in the event of an oil spill or release of hazardous substances, and for other purposes. Official text of this bill is not yet available. (9/14/10).
House – bill introduced re export and import of natural gas
Representative Wu (D-OR) introduced a bill (H.R. 6124) to amend certain provisions of the Natural Gas Act relating to exportation or importation of natural gas, and for other purposes. Official text of this bill is not yet available. (9/14/10).
Senate – hearing on defenses against nuclear terrorism
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs conducted a hearing on Nuclear Terrorism: Strengthening Our Domestic Defenses, Part II. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary Jane Lute testified concerning the layered security system utilized by the Department and its components. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) also submitted a Statement for the Record discussing how inadequate communication and oversight hampered DHS efforts to develop an advanced radiography system to detect nuclear materials. Among other things, the GAO Statement notes that DHS planned for the acquisition and deployment of advanced radiography equipment without fully understanding that it could not operate in a US port environment. The acquisition phase of the project has been cancelled. (9/15/10).
Court – local agency may not regulate air emissions from trains
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that rules adopted by California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) relating to air emissions from idling railroad trains are preempted by federal law. Association of American Railroads v. South Coast Air Quality Management District, No. 07-55804 (9th Cir., September 15, 2010). Note: This decision is not directly applicable to the maritime industry, but may be of interest because trains are used to transport cargoes (particularly shipping containers) to and from ports within Southern California.
EP – call for Arctic governance
The European Parliament (EP) issued a news release stating that it hosted the Ninth Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (CPAR), which brings together governmental representatives from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. At the conference, the EP reiterated its call for a clear governance system for the Arctic. (9/15/10).
Canada – maritime transportation goals
Transport Canada posted the speech delivered by the Honorable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities at the Fifth Annual Canadian Maritime Conference. He emphasized competiveness, environmental sustainability, and partnerships as the maritime transportation goals of the Canadian Government. (9/14/10).
Russia and Norway – maritime boundary agreement
The Kremlin issued a news release stating that Russia and Norway have signed a treaty on delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. The treaty is intended to create favorable conditions for cooperation in fishing and hydrocarbon extraction in these previously disputed waters. (9/15/10).
UK – report on fatal bulker/fishing vessel collision
The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) released the report of its investigation of the collision between a bulk carrier and a fishing vessel in the Dover Strait on 20 December 2009. As a result of the collision, the fishing vessel sank and one crewmember lost his life. The officer of the watch on the bulk carrier failed to render assistance following the collision and failed to report the marine casualty. The fishing vessel fired flares and activated its EPIRB. The Jobourg MRCC issued three “Mayday Relay” messages, but none of the vessels in the area responded. Eventually, a passing ferry observed the flares and rendered assistance. Report No. 11/2010 (9/16/10). Note: This was not an appropriate demonstration of the traditions of the sea. Fortunately, such incidents are extremely rare.
If you have questions regarding the above items, please contact the editor:
Dennis L. Bryant
Bryant’s Maritime Consulting
4845 SW 91st Way
Gainesville, FL 32608-8135
© Dennis L. Bryant – September 2010