Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling Rules and Guidance – More Information

Click here to return to our primary page on the Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling Rules and Guidance, with the current status and discussion of why this rule matters. 


April 5, 2016 — The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) / DOI proposed an offshore air quality rule.

April 29, 2016 – The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) / DOI finalized a rule to enhance blowout preventer and well control requirements, including well design, casing, cementing, and monitoring upgrades.

July 2016 — Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) / National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) finalized guidance on acoustic thresholds for underwater activity, to lessen the impact of offshore development on marine mammals.

July 15, 2016 — BSEE / BOEM / DOI finalized a rule to govern offshore Arctic drilling.

September 7, 2016 – BSEE issued a final rule amending and updating offshore oil and gas production safety regulations.

September 12, 2016 — BOEM / DOI issued a Notice to Lessees and Operators on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), to consider increasing financial security to meet decommissioning costs.

December 20, 2016 —  President Obama withdrew 3.8 million acres of OCS oil and gas development in the Atlantic and 115 million acres in the Arctic. All told, President Obama protected 125 million acres of the Arctic offshore.

Trump Era

April 28, 2017 — President Trump signed an Executive Order to “encourage energy exploration and production” on the OCS. It directed Interior to consider lease sales in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Cook Inlet, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South Atlantic, areas not yet open to oil and gas development. Commerce was barred from designating or expanding a National Marine Sanctuary without a full report by Interior about the energy potential of the area. Commerce must review all Marine National Monuments and Sanctuaries designated or expanded since 2007, with a final report in 180 days.

The Order modified the Withdrawal of Areas of the OCS from Leasing issued by President Obama to limit withdrawal to those areas designated as Marine Sanctuaries as of July 14, 2008.

The Order also directed DOI to reconsider the April 2016 proposed air rule, the April 2016 well control rule, the July 2016 offshore Arctic drilling rule, and the September 2016 decommissioning notice, and directed NOAA to reconsider the July 2016 guidance on acoustic thresholds.

July 3, 2017 BOEM / DOI — published notice of the start of a public comment period for the expanded Leasing program; comment period ended August 17, 2017.

June 22, 2017  —  BOEM / DOI published notice of the start of a public comment period with no deadline for a host of regulatory reform efforts, including a review of the offshore well control rule (and others in the entries above). Click here to submit comments on the regulatory reform notice. This comment period is indefinite.

December 29, 2017 — The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement published a proposal to revise or rescind the offshore drilling safety requirements issued on September 7, 2017. The proposal takes aim at rules that were crafted to prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion. In its proposal, BSEE said it “reassessed” the original provisions in the process of implementing them and “determined that some provisions could be revised to reduce or eliminate some of the concerns expressed by the operators.”

January 4, 2018  — The Department of Interior proposed a 5-year leasing plan, opening most US coastal waters to oil and gas drilling

January 9, 2018 — Interior Secretary Zinke said Florida would be off limits because “Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

January 19, 2018  — The acting Bureau of Ocean Energy Management head said no formal decision had been made to exclude Florida from new offshore oil and gas drilling.

March 5, 2018  — 227 state legislators sent Secretary Zinke a letter opposing the 5-year proposal.

March 9, 2018 — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo formally requested an exclusion from the new five-year National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program

April 11, 2018 – American Democracy Legal Fund submitted a complaint to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel alleging that Interior Secretary Zinke violated the Hatch Act in exempting Florida from the draft offshore leasing plan. The group argued that in doing so he “used his official position and government resources to partake in blatant political activity.”

April 20, 2018 —New Jersey Governor Bill Murphy signed into law a bill meant to block offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in state-controlled waters. The bill also bans permitting of any infrastructure to serve drilling farther offshore in federally controlled waters

May 9, 2018 — The Department of Defense sent a report to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Arms Services Committee stating that offshore oil and natural gas drilling in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico would likely be incompatible with military training and testing.

May 11, 2018 — Interior Secretary Zinke said in a Senate hearing during an exchange with Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen that Maryland would be off limits because “there are no known (oil) resources off the coast of Maryland.” and “the president has ensured that we take the local community in consideration and the views of this body.”

May 11, 2018 — the BSEE proposed changes to the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control rule issued on April 29, 2016, opening a 60-day comment period that ended on July 10, 2018. BSEE says the proposed rule will “amend, revise, or remove current regulatory provisions that create unnecessary burdens on stakeholders.”

May 24, 2018 – nonprofit organization American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the Department of the Interior asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to force Interior to turn over documents showing communications leading up to its decision to expand offshore drilling leasing and to exclude Florida from that expansion. – American Oversight v. U.S. Department of Interior, No. 1:18-cv-01216.

For More Information

For more on these rules see the entry in the Columbia University Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s database. Also, see Sabin’s Climate Deregulation Tracker for additional updates.

HLS Student Orgs

Search Our Site

HLS Evironmental Law on Twitter