Obama requests budget boost for BSEE

President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is $204.7 million.

According to BSEE, this robust support will enable it to keep pace with industry activity and the technology developments that are helping to drive deepwater oil and gas development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

The Administration’s proposal sustains funding increases received in previous years and provides critically needed resources to further strengthen BSEE’s regulatory and oversight capabilities for OCS oil and gas development, as the Administration works to responsibly expand domestic energy production through the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the BSEE says in the press release.

“The President’s 2016 request fully reflects the Administration’s continued emphasis by ensuring that development of the Nation’s vast offshore energy resources is conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” said BSEE Director Brian Salerno.

“Funds will be used to recruit expert engineers, scientists, inspectors and oil spill prevention specialists to support the development of risk-based approaches to oversight and compliance on the Outer Continental Shelf.”

By the end of 2014, there were 69 deepwater rigs and non-rig units working in the Gulf of Mexico, up from 40 at the start of the year. The Energy Information Administration projects offshore production will continue to grow through 2040, as the pace of development activity quickens and new, large development projects, predominantly in the deepwater and ultra-deepwater areas of the Gulf of Mexico, are brought into production.

According to BSEE, the 2016 budget will continue to build a robust culture of safety, with a strong focus on risk reduction. The Bureau will bolster its capacity for analyzing data gained through incident reporting requirements, near-miss reporting, and real-time monitoring. The Bureau will also continue to work with industry to better understand their safety processes, so that BSEE can mitigate and reduce risk. Through these initiatives and others, BSEE will continue to ensure that offshore development occurs in a safe and environmentally responsible way, BSEE said in the press release.

The 2016 budget request includes an increase of $1.7 million to establish the Engineering Technology Assessment Center to support the evaluation of new and emerging technologies and develop associated safety and oversight protocols. The increased funding will add greater depth and capacity to the BSEE, so that as industry continues to innovate and develop new capabilities, the BSEE will be able to keep pace. The Center will provide a Bureau-wide focal point for emerging technology evaluation. The FY 2016 request also better aligns inspection fees with BSEE’s risk-based approach to inspections and compliance.

The 2016 request also includes a program increase of $750,000 for establishing the Renewable Energy Inspection Program. The funding will support the development of regulations, inspection guidelines, procedures, and criteria for inspections of offshore renewable energy facilities so that the appropriate regulatory structure will be in place to protect the safety of these facilities as well as the environment.

Anticipated fixed cost increases are funded at $1.4 million. BSEE’s targeted funding increases are largely offset by anticipated savings from continued management efficiency efforts (-$2.4 million) and a reduction in offsetting collections funding (-$1.4 million), for a net funding increase of $46,000 over the 2015 enacted level.

The President’s budget proposes $14.9 million for Oil Spill Research, equal to the 2015 enacted level. The BSEE says that the Oil Spill Research program plays a pivotal role in initiating applied research used to support decision-making on methods and equipment to prevent or mitigate oil spills, which is a critical component of the offshore permitting process. The request will address key knowledge and technology gaps in oil spill response, focusing on deepwater and Arctic environments.

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