New Offshore Safety Bill Would Tighten Oversight of Offshore Drilling Companies

A new offshore safety bill that includes several of the recommendations made by a presidential panel into the Deepwater Horizon explosion, has just been introduced by House Democrats. According to the group of Democrats, which has been led by Representative Ed Markey-Democrat Massachusetts, the bill would impose a strict oversight on offshore oil companies. Part of the bill's provisions would include establishing stricter federal controls and oversight of offshore drilling rigs, increased funding for the federal agency charged with offshore safety and establishment of new standards for blowout preventers. Failure of the blowout preventer has been pointed as a cause for the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig disaster. The bill would also forbid companies with poor safety records from being able to bid on new gas leases along the US coastline. Most importantly to maritime lawyers, it would also provide for lifting of liability limits in offshore spills. The bill also provides for federal whistleblower protection to those employees who bring safety violations at their company to the attention of federal regulators. It also sets aside up to 80% of the fines against BP and its contractors, for environmental restoration work in the Gulf. This was just one of the many recommendations made by the presidential panel into the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion that has been included in the bill. However, whether the bill will actually make it through the legislative process is a moot point, because Democrats are now in a minority.

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