April 20 marks the five-year anniversary of the BP oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The explosion, and subsequent 87-day-long oil leak, was the country's worst maritime petroleum spill in history. As a response to this tragedy, referred to as the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, several proposals came out to limit and regulate offshore drilling for oil and gas wells.
Last week, the Obama administration issued a new report that calls for strict regulations and safety enhancements to offshore oil and gas drilling. This is believed to be the most extensive set of regulations to be approved since the accident occurred five years ago.
"This rule builds on enhanced industry standards for blowout preventers to comprehensively address well design, well control and overall drilling safety," Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel said in a press release.
The goal of these regulations is to draw from the findings of multiple investigations, such as those that were recently conducted by institutions such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Oil Spill Commission, in order to avoid the type of technical failures that led to the 2010 explosion.
One major focus of the new regulations is the blowout preventer, a piece of safety equipment that malfunctioned in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy which resulted in "the loss of well control, an explosion, fire and subsequent days-long spill," Jewel explained.
"In addition to more stringent design requirements, the proposed rule requires improved controls of all repair and maintenance activities through the lifecycle of the blowout preventer and other well control equipment," she said.
Some of the other adjustments that the rule proposes are changes to overall well design, real-time monitoring of the wells and more immediate containment of leaks if they occur.
Since the BP oil spill, there are more floating deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, so these regulations are even more relevant today as drilling expands.
When the explosion occurred, and oil seeped out for multiple months, up to 16,000 miles of the coast were affected in the Outer Continental Shelf region. This included areas of the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
"The Outer Continental Shelf is a critical component of our nation's energy portfolio accounting for more than 16 percent of the Nation's oil production and about 5 percent of domestic natural gas production," Jewel said.
The combined revenues brought into the U.S. from the Outer Continental production was $7.4 billion in 2014.