[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 136 (Friday, July 15, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 46477-46566]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-15699]



[[Page 46477]]

Vol. 81

Friday,

No. 136

July 15, 2016

Part III





Department of the Interior





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Bureau of Ocean Energy Management





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30 CFR Parts 250, 254, and 550





Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf--
Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental 
Shelf; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 81 , No. 136 / Friday, July 15, 2016 / Rules 
and Regulations

[[Page 46478]]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

30 CFR Parts 250, 254, and 550

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

30 CFR Part 550

[Docket ID: BSEE-2013-0011; 16XE1700DX EX1SF0000.DAQ000 EEEE500000]
RIN 1082-AA00


Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental 
Shelf--Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer 
Continental Shelf

AGENCY: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE); Bureau 
of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Department of the Interior (DOI or the Department), acting 
through BOEM and BSEE, is revising and adding new requirements to 
regulations for exploratory drilling and related operations on the 
Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) seaward of the State of Alaska. This 
final rule focuses solely on the OCS within the Beaufort Sea and 
Chukchi Sea Planning Areas (Arctic OCS). The Arctic region is 
characterized by extreme environmental conditions, geographic 
remoteness, and a relative lack of fixed infrastructure and existing 
operations. This final rule is designed to help ensure the safe, 
effective, and responsible exploration of Arctic OCS oil and gas 
resources, while protecting the marine, coastal, and human 
environments, and Alaska Natives' cultural traditions and access to 
subsistence resources.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on September 13, 2016.
    The incorporation by reference of certain publications listed in 
the rule is approved by the Director of the Federal Register as of 
September 13, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Comments and material received from the public, as well as 
documents mentioned in this preamble as being available in the docket, 
are part of docket BSEE-2013-0011 and are available for inspection or 
copying at the Docket Management Facility (M-30), U.S. Department of 
Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. You may also find this 
docket on the Internet by going to http://www.regulations.gov, and 
searching for BSEE-2013-0011.
    Materials incorporated by reference in this final rule may be 
inspected by appointment at BOEM and BSEE Headquarters, 45600 Woodland 
Road, Sterling, Virginia 20166, or at the BOEM and BSEE Alaska Regional 
Offices, 3801 Centerpoint Drive, Suite 400 or Suite 500, Anchorage, 
Alaska 99503, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays. To make an appointment, call (202) 258-1518.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark E. Fesmire, BSEE, Alaska Regional 
Office, [email protected], (907) 334-5300; John Caplis, BSEE, Oil 
Spill Preparedness Division, [email protected], (703) 787-1364; or 
David Johnston, BOEM, Alaska Regional Office, [email protected], 
(907) 334-5200. To see a copy of any relevant information collection 
request submitted to Office of Management and Budget (OMB), go to 
http://www.reginfo.gov (select Information Collection Review).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    Although there is currently a comprehensive OCS oil and gas 
regulatory program, there is a need for new and revised Arctic-specific 
regulatory measures for exploratory drilling conducted by floating 
drilling vessels and ``jack-up rigs'' (collectively known as mobile 
offshore drilling units or (MODU)) in the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea 
Planning Areas (defined in this final rule as the Arctic OCS). The 
United States (U.S.) Arctic region, as recognized and defined in the 
U.S. Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984, as amended, encompasses an 
extensive marine and terrestrial area; however, this final rule focuses 
solely on the OCS within the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning 
Areas.
    On February 24, 2015, BOEM and BSEE published a Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register entitled, ``Oil and Gas and 
Sulfur Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf--Requirements for 
Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf'' (80 FR 
9916). We received 1,311 letters to the docket, from over 100,000 
individual commenters on the NPRM. Additionally, BOEM and BSEE engaged 
in Government-to-Government Tribal consultations and Government-to- 
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporations consultations 
prior to and after publication of the NPRM, to discuss the subject 
matter of the proposed rule and to solicit input on the development of 
the final rule. In the development of the NPRM and this final rule, 
BOEM and BSEE undertook extensive environmental and safety reviews of 
potential oil and gas operations on the Arctic OCS. After considering 
comments on the NPRM, Tribal and other consultations, the environmental 
analysis, and DOI's direct experience from Shell's 2012 and 2015 Arctic 
operations, BOEM and BSEE concluded that finalizing additional 
exploratory drilling regulations will enhance existing regulations and 
is appropriate for establishing a more holistic Arctic OCS oil and gas 
regulatory framework.
    The U.S Arctic region is known for its oil and gas resource 
potential, its vibrant ecosystems, and the Alaska Native communities, 
which rely on the Arctic's resources for subsistence use and cultural 
traditions. The region is characterized by extreme environmental 
conditions, geographic remoteness, and a relative lack of fixed 
infrastructure and existing operations. These are key factors in 
considering the feasibility, practicality, and safety of conducting 
offshore oil and gas activities on the Arctic OCS. This final rule will 
help to ensure that Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations are 
conducted in a safe and responsible manner while taking into account 
the unique conditions of Arctic OCS drilling activities and Alaska 
Natives' cultural traditions and access to subsistence resources.
    This final rule adds to and revises existing regulations in 30 CFR 
parts 250, 254, and 550 for Arctic OCS oil and gas activities and 
focuses on exploratory drilling activities that use MODUs and related 
operations during the Arctic OCS open-water drilling season. The final 
rule does not preclude exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS conducted 
in the future using other drilling technologies (e.g., use of a land 
rig on grounded or land-fast ice). Exploratory drilling operations 
using technologies other than MODUs are outside the scope of the final 
rule and would be evaluated under the existing OCS oil and gas 
regulatory program, as may be amended. The final regulations address a 
number of important issues and objectives, including ensuring that each 
operator:
    1. Designs and conducts exploration programs in a manner that 
accounts for Arctic OCS conditions;
    2. Develops an integrated operations plan (IOP) that addresses all 
phases of its proposed Arctic OCS exploration program, and submits the 
IOP to BOEM at least 90 days in advance of filing its Exploration Plan 
(EP);

[[Page 46479]]

    3. Has access to, and the ability to promptly deploy, Source 
Control and Containment Equipment (SCCE) while drilling below, or 
working below, the surface casing;
    4. Has access to a separate relief rig located in a geographic 
position to be able to timely drill a relief well under the conditions 
expected at the site in the event of a loss of well control;
    5. Has the capability to predict, track, report, and respond to ice 
conditions and adverse weather events;
    6. Effectively manages and oversees contractors; and,
    7. Develops and implements an Oil Spill Response Plan (OSRP) that 
is designed and executed in a manner that accounts for the unique 
Arctic OCS operating environment, and has the necessary equipment, 
training, and personnel for oil spill response on the Arctic OCS.
    The final rule furthers the Nation's stewardship of the Arctic's 
environment and resources, and establishes specific operating models 
and requirements for the extreme, changing conditions that exist on the 
Arctic OCS. The regulations will require comprehensive planning of 
operations, especially for emergency response and safety systems. A 
goal of the final rule is to encourage the identification of 
operational risks early in the planning process and to encourage 
operators to plan for how to avoid and/or mitigate those risks. The 
requirements in the final rule also aim to ensure that plans meet the 
challenges presented by Arctic conditions and are executed in a safe 
and environmentally protective manner.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
    A. Resource Potential
    B. Integrated Arctic Management
    C. Overview of Regulations
    D. Costs and Benefits of Final Rule
    E. Availability of Incorporated Documents for Public Viewing
    F. Summary of Documents Incorporated by Reference
II. Background
    A. Statutory and Regulatory Overview
    B. Factual Overview of the Arctic OCS Region
III. Regulations for Arctic OCS Exploratory Drilling
    A. Measures That Address Recommendations
    B. Approval of Alternative Procedures or Equipment
    C. IOP Requirement
    D. SCCE and Relief Rig Capabilities
    E. Planning for the Variability and Challenges of the Arctic OCS 
Conditions
    F. Arctic OCS Oil Spill Response Preparedness
    G. Reducing Pollution From Arctic OCS Exploratory Drilling 
Operations
    H. Oversight, Management, and Accountability of Operations and 
Contractor Support
IV. Section-By-Section Discussion of Changes and Comments
    A. Summary of Key Changes From the NPRM
    B. Discussion of and Responses to Comments
    1. General Comments
    2. Definitions
    3. Additional Regulations by BOEM
    4. Additional Regulations by BSEE
    C. Discussion of Comments on the Initial RIA
    D. Arctic Exploratory Drilling Process Flowchart
    E. Conclusion
V. Procedural Matters
    A. Regulatory Planning and Review (E.O. 12866 and E.O. 13563)
    B. E.O. 12866
    C. E.O. 13563
    D. Regulatory Flexibility Act
    E. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA)
    F. Takings Implication Assessment
    G. Federalism (E.O. 13132)
    H. Civil Justice Reform (E.O. 12988)
    I. Consultation With Indian Tribes (E.O. 13175)
    J. E.O. 12898--Environmental Justice
    K. Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)
    L. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)
    M. Data Quality Act
    N. Effects on the Nation's Energy Supply (E.O. 13211)
    O. Clarity of This Regulation

List of Acronyms and References

                     List of Acronyms and References
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60-Day Report.....................  Report to the Secretary of the
                                     Interior, Review of Shell's 2012
                                     Alaska Offshore Oil and Gas
                                     Exploration Program.
ACPs..............................  Area Contingency Plans.
AEWC..............................  Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.
ANCSA.............................  Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
APD...............................  Application for Permit to Drill.
API...............................  American Petroleum Institute.
APM...............................  Application for Permit to Modify.
Arctic OCS........................  OCS within the Beaufort Sea and
                                     Chukchi Sea Planning Areas.
BAST..............................  Best Available and Safest
                                     Technology.
BOEM..............................  Bureau of.
BOP...............................  Blowout Preventer.
BSEE..............................  Bureau of Safety and Environmental
                                     Enforcement.
CAA...............................  Conflict Avoidance Agreement.
CAP...............................  Corrective Action Plan.
CFR...............................  Code of Federal Regulations.
COCP..............................  Critical Operations and Curtailment
                                     Plan.
CWA...............................  Clean Water Act.
Department........................  Department of the Interior.
DOCD..............................  Development Operations Coordination
                                     Document.
DOI...............................  Department of the Interior.
DPP...............................  Development and Production Plan.
EA................................  Environmental Assessment.
E.O...............................  Executive Order.
E.O. 13580 Alaska Energy            Interagency Working Group on
 Permitting IWG.                     Coordination of Domestic Energy
                                     Development and Permitting in
                                     Alaska.
EP................................  Exploration Plan.
EPA...............................  Environmental Protection Agency.
ESA...............................  Endangered Species Act.
FOSC..............................  Federal On Scene Coordinator.
HPHT..............................  High Pressure High Temperature.
IACS..............................  International Association of
                                     Classification Societies.
IBR...............................  Incorporation by Reference.
IC................................  Information Collection.

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ICAS..............................  Inupiat Community of the Arctic
                                     Slope.
ICS...............................  Incident Command System.
IEC...............................  International Electrotechnical
                                     Commission.
IMH...............................  Incident Management Handbook.
IMO...............................  International Maritime Organization.
IMP...............................  Ice Management Plan.
INC...............................  Incident of Noncompliance.
IOGP..............................  International Association of Oil and
                                     Gas Producers.
IOP...............................  Integrated Operations Plan.
IPD...............................  Interim Policy Document.
IPIECA............................  International Petroleum Industry
                                     Environmental Conservation
                                     Association.
IQA...............................  Information Quality Act.
IRFA..............................  Initial Regulatory Flexibility
                                     Analysis.
ISO...............................  International Organization of
                                     Standardization.
MMPA..............................  Marine Mammal Protection Act.
MMS...............................  Minerals Management Service.
MOA...............................  Memorandum of Agreement.
MODU..............................  Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit.
MPD...............................  Managed Pressure Drilling.
MWD...............................  Measurement while Drilling.
NAICS.............................  North American Industry
                                     Classification System.
NARA..............................  National Archives and Records
                                     Administration.
NCP...............................  National Oil and Hazardous
                                     Substances Pollution Contingency
                                     Plan.
NEPA..............................  National Environmental Policy Act of
                                     1969.
NMFS..............................  National Marine Fisheries Service.
NOAA..............................  National Oceanic and Atmospheric
                                     Administration.
NPC...............................  National Petroleum Council.
NPDES.............................  National Pollutant Discharge
                                     Elimination System.
NPRM..............................  Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
NSAR..............................  President's National Strategy of the
                                     Arctic Region, issued May 2013.
NTL...............................  Notice to Lessees and Operators.
NWS...............................  National Weather Service.
OCS...............................  Outer Continental Shelf.
OCSLA.............................  Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
ODCE..............................  Ocean Discharge Criteria
                                     Evaluations.
OEM...............................  Original Equipment Manufacturer.
OIRA..............................  Office of Information and Regulatory
                                     Affairs.
OMB...............................  Office of Management and Budget.
OPA...............................  Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
OSRO..............................  Oil Spill Response Organization.
OSRP..............................  Oil Spill Response Plan.
PHMSA.............................  Pipeline and Hazardous Materials
                                     Safety Administration.
PRA...............................  Paperwork Reduction Act.
PREP..............................  Preparedness for Response Exercise
                                     Program.
RCPs..............................  Regional Contingency Plans.
RFAI..............................  Requests for Additional Information.
RIA...............................  Regulatory Impact Analysis.
RMROL.............................  Realistic Maximum Response Operating
                                     Limits.
RP................................  Recommended Practice.
RTM...............................  Real-Time Monitoring.
SCCE..............................  Source Control and Containment
                                     Equipment.
SCSC..............................  Source Control Support Coordinator.
Secretary.........................  Secretary of the Interior.
SEMS..............................  Safety and Environmental Management
                                     Systems.
SID...............................  Subsea Isolation Device.
SINTEF............................  Scientific and Industrial Research
                                     at the Norwegian Institute of
                                     Technology.
SOSC..............................  State on Scene Coordinator.
TAP...............................  Technical Assessment Program.
UMRA..............................  Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of
                                     1995.
U.S...............................  United States.
USCG..............................  U.S. Coast Guard.
USFWS.............................  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
WCD...............................  Worst Case Discharge.
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I. Introduction

    In May 2013, President Obama issued a document entitled, ``National 
Strategy for the Arctic Region'' (NSAR). The President affirmed that 
emerging economic opportunities exist in the region, but that ``. . . 
we must exercise responsible stewardship, using an integrated 
management approach and making decisions based on the best available 
information, with the aim of promoting healthy, sustainable, and 
resilient ecosystems over the long term.'' The NSAR is intended, among 
other things, to ``reduce our reliance on imported oil and strengthen 
our Nation's energy security'' by working with stakeholders to enable 
``environmentally responsible production of oil and natural gas.'' To 
provide responsible stewardship of the

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Arctic's environment and resources, the NSAR emphasizes the need for 
integrated and balanced management techniques.
    Furthermore, the NSAR acknowledges the potential international 
implications of Arctic oil and gas activities for ``other Arctic states 
and the international community as a whole.'' The U.S. has committed to 
do its part to ``keep the Arctic region prosperous, environmentally 
sustainable, operationally safe, secure, and free of conflict[.]'' One 
primary objective outlined in the implementation plan for the NSAR is 
to ``reduce the risk of marine oil pollution while increasing global 
capabilities for preparedness and response to oil pollution incidents 
in the Arctic.'' (available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/implementation_plan_for_the_national_strategy_for_the_arctic_region_-_fi....pdf). The NSAR is an example of the types of action the U.S. is 
taking to implement its obligations under international agreements, 
such as the Arctic Council's Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil 
Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (available at http://arctic-council.org/eppr/agreement-on-cooperation-on-marine-oil-pollution-preparedness-and-response-in-the-arctic/).

A. Resource Potential

    The Arctic OCS region is estimated to contain a vast amount of 
undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas. Most of the Alaska 
OCS resource potential is located off the Arctic coast within the 
Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea Planning Areas. According to BOEM's 2016 
Assessment of Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Oil and Gas 
Resources of the Nation's Outer Continental Shelf (mean estimates 
available at http://www.boem.gov/National-Assessment-2016/, there are 
approximately 23.6 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 
about 104.4 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas 
in the combined Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas. This 
resource potential has intermittently received considerable attention 
from the oil and gas industry over several decades. The U.S. government 
has responded to this interest by holding lease sales offering millions 
of acres resulting in hundreds of leases, and the oil and gas industry 
has conducted Arctic exploration activities beginning in the 1970s.

B. Integrated Arctic Management

    As ocean and seasonal conditions continue to change in the U.S. 
Arctic, both commercial and recreational activities will increase as 
more areas of water open up for longer periods of time due to the 
increased melting of sea ice. The decrease in summer sea ice raises 
legitimate concerns regarding changes to the environment and the Arctic 
resources that Alaska Natives depend on for survival and cultural 
traditions. Consistent with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act 
(OCSLA), BOEM and BSEE, the Bureaus responsible for managing oil and 
gas resources on the Arctic OCS, are finalizing these regulations that 
take into account the needs of the multiple users who have an interest 
in the future of the U.S. Arctic region (see 43 U.S.C. 1332(6)).
    The U.S. has a longstanding interest in the orderly development of 
oil and gas resources on the Arctic OCS, while also seeking to ensure 
the protection of its environment and communities. The U.S. has 
proceeded with Arctic OCS oil and gas development to ensure that laws, 
regulations, and policies are created and implemented based on a 
thorough examination of the multiple factors at play in this unique 
environment. BOEM and BSEE have conducted extensive research on 
potential oil and gas activities on the OCS in anticipation of 
operations (see, e.g., www.bsee.gov/Technology-and-Research/Technology-Assessment-Programs/Categories/Arctic-Research/), and have also 
evaluated the potential environmental effects of such activities (see, 
e.g., http://www.boem.gov/akstudies/). These research projects, along 
with other initiatives, form the basis for the most recent National 
policies and directives regarding Alaska OCS oil and gas development, 
all of which have guided this final rule.
    Coordinating the future uses of the U.S. Arctic region will require 
integrated action between and among Federal, State, municipal and 
tribal governmental entities. On July 12, 2011, President Obama signed 
Executive Order (E.O.) 13580, establishing an Interagency Working Group 
on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska 
(E.O. 13580 Alaska Energy Permitting IWG), chaired by the Deputy 
Secretary of the Interior. The E.O. 13580 Alaska Energy Permitting IWG 
is composed of representatives from the DOI, Department of Defense, 
Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, Department of 
Energy, Department of Homeland Security, and the Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA).\1\ It is charged with facilitating 
``coordinated and efficient domestic energy development and permitting 
in Alaska while ensuring that all applicable [health, safety, and 
environmental protection] standards are fully met'' (E.O. 13580, sec. 
1).
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    \1\ The Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas 
Transportation Projects was represented on the E.O. 13580 Alaska 
Energy Permitting IWG, but closed on March 7, 2015, due to lack of 
funding. Its Web site, Arcticgas.gov, is being maintained, but not 
updated, by the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, with assistance 
from Alaska Resources Library & Information Services (ARLIS) at the 
University of Alaska Anchorage. See http://www.arcticgas.gov/.
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    The E.O. 13580 Alaska Energy Permitting IWG's report entitled, 
``Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic, A Report to the 
President'' (March 2013) (see http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/publications/misc_pdf/iamreport.pdf), was the result of substantial collaboration 
and also plays a significant role in shaping U.S. Arctic policies. 
Further, the President signed E.O. 13689, Enhancing Coordination of 
National Efforts in the Arctic on January 21, 2015. This E.O. states 
the policy: ``The Arctic has critical long-term strategic, ecological, 
cultural, and economic value, and it is imperative that we continue to 
protect our national interests in the region, which include: national 
defense; sovereign rights and responsibilities; maritime safety; energy 
and economic benefits; environmental stewardship; promotion of science 
and research; and preservation of the rights, freedoms, and uses of the 
sea as reflected in international law.'' An Arctic Executive Steering 
Committee was established to provide guidance to Federal departments 
and agencies and to enhance coordination of Federal Arctic policies.

C. Overview of Regulations

    Although there is currently a comprehensive OCS oil and gas 
regulatory program, DOI engagement with partners and stakeholders \2\ 
and comments on the NPRM underscore the need for new and enhanced 
regulatory measures for Arctic OCS exploratory drilling by MODUs. For 
purposes of this rulemaking, exploratory drilling is defined as ``[a]ny 
drilling conducted for the purpose of searching for commercial 
quantities of oil, gas, and sulfur, including the drilling of any 
additional well needed to delineate any reservoir to enable the lessee 
to decide whether to proceed with development and production.''
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    \2\ Tribes, State and local governments, and Federal agencies 
are ``partners.'' ``Stakeholders'' are non-governmental 
organizations, industry, and other entities with an interest in this 
rulemaking.
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    This final rule defines the ``Arctic OCS'' as the Beaufort Sea and 
Chukchi Sea Planning Areas, as described in the

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Proposed Final OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012--(June 2012) 
(available at: www.boem.gov/uploadedFiles/BOEM/Oil_and_Gas_Energy_Program/Leasing/Five_Year_Program/2012-2017_Five_Year_Program/PFP%2012-17.pdf (see pp.21-24)).\3\ This 
definition is added to Sec. Sec.  250.105, 254.6, and 550.105. As 
described below, BOEM and BSEE determined that these areas are both the 
subject of exploration and development interest and subject to 
conditions that present significant challenges to such operations.
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    \3\ This final rule uses and defines terms that may be similar 
to terms used in other programs by other Federal agencies; however, 
the terms and definitions used in this final rule are intended to 
apply only to the BSEE and BOEM regulatory programs covered by this 
final rule, unless otherwise noted.
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    This final rule applies to Arctic OCS exploratory drilling 
activities that use MODUs (e.g., jack-ups and drillships) and related 
operations during the Arctic open-water drilling season (generally late 
June to early November). We note that, because this rulemaking is 
applicable only to MODUs conducting exploration drilling, the 
provisions finalized here do not apply to shallow water drilling from 
gravel islands or the use of a land rig on grounded or land-fast ice 
and do not prohibit these or other methods of exploratory drilling 
operations on the Arctic OCS.
    This final rule builds on and codifies input received from partners 
and stakeholders, comments to the proposed rule, as well as key 
components of the 2012 and 2015 Arctic exploratory drilling programs. 
DOI released in 2013 a ``Report to the Secretary of the Interior, 
Review of Shell's 2012 Alaska Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration 
Program'' (60-Day Report) (available at http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/upload/Shell-report-3-8-13-Final.pdf). The 60-Day Report 
identified a number of lessons learned and recommended practices to 
ensure future Arctic oil and gas exploration activities would be 
carried out in a safe and responsible manner.
    Shell's exploratory operations proceeded in 2015 without any 
unexpected drilling-related problems, and it safely drilled its well to 
a total depth of 6800 feet. On
    September 28, 2015, Shell announced that it had found indications 
of oil and gas in the well, but stated that the results were not 
sufficient to warrant further exploration of the prospect, and the well 
was to be plugged and abandoned in accordance with BSEE regulations. 
Shell subsequently announced it was ceasing further exploration 
activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future.\4\
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    \4\ Shell update of Alaska exploration, Press release (September 
28, 2015) (available at http://www.shell.com/global/aboutshell/media/news-and-media-releases/2015/shell-updates-on-alaska-exploration.html).
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    BOEM and BSEE have undertaken extensive environmental and safety 
reviews of potential oil and gas operations on the Arctic OCS. These 
reviews, along with concerns expressed by environmental organizations 
and Alaska Natives, as well as other stakeholders, highlight the need 
to develop additional measures specifically tailored to the operational 
and environmental conditions of the Arctic OCS. Arctic OCS operations 
can be complex, and there are challenges and operational risks 
throughout every phase of an exploratory drilling program.
    This final rule is a combination of prescriptive and performance-
based requirements that address a number of important issues and 
objectives, including, but not limited to, ensuring that operators:
    1. Design and conduct exploration programs in a manner that 
accounts for Arctic OCS conditions (e.g., using equipment and processes 
that are capable of performing effectively and safely under extreme 
weather and sea conditions and in remote locations with relatively 
limited infrastructure);
    2. Develop an IOP that addresses all phases of an Arctic OCS 
exploration program and submit the IOP to BOEM at least 90 days in 
advance of filing an EP;
    3. Have access to, and the ability to promptly deploy, SCCE while 
drilling below, or working below, the surface casing;
    4. Have access to a separate relief rig located in a geographic 
position to be able to timely drill a relief well under the conditions 
expected at the site;
    5. Have the capability to predict, track, report, and respond to 
ice conditions and adverse weather events;
    6. Effectively manage and oversee contractors; and
    7. Develop and implement OSRPs that are designed in a manner that 
accounts for the unique Arctic OCS operating environment and that 
describe the availability of the necessary equipment, training, and 
personnel for oil spill response on the Arctic OCS.

D. Costs and Benefits of Final Rule

    The Final Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) for this final rule 
estimates that the new requirements could result in compliance costs 
for the industry of $2.05 billion under 3-percent discounting and $1.74 
billion under 7-percent discounting over 10 years. The provisions of 
the rule subsumed within the regulatory baseline are estimated to cost 
$1.83 billion under 3-percent discounting and $1.51 billion under 7-
percent discounting over the 10-year analysis period. As discussed in 
Section V.B of the preamble, the baseline includes the estimated costs 
associated with current regulatory requirements and industry standards. 
While the economic and other benefits of the final rule--based 
primarily on preventing or reducing the severity or duration of 
catastrophic oil spills--are difficult to quantify, BOEM and BSEE have 
determined that it is appropriate to proceed with this final rule. 
Although the probability of a catastrophic oil spill is low, the 
Deepwater Horizon oil spill demonstrated that even such low probability 
events can have devastating human, economic and environmental results 
if they occur.
    Reducing the risks of Arctic OCS operations is particularly 
important because of the unique significance to Alaska Natives of the 
marine mammals, fish, and migratory birds, in the lands and waters 
around the Arctic OCS. Ensuring a continuing opportunity to harvest 
these subsistence resources is critical for protecting Alaska Natives' 
health, livelihood, and culture. Additionally, adequately protecting 
the health of the Arctic ecosystem, including the sensitive environment 
and wildlife, is particularly important and highly valued. Thus, the 
impact of a catastrophic oil spill, while a remote possibility, would 
have extremely high cultural and societal costs, and prevention of such 
a catastrophe would have correspondingly high cultural and societal 
benefits.
    The requirements of the rule--specifically tailored to the Arctic 
OCS--provide additional specificity regarding BOEM's and BSEE's 
expectations for safe and responsible development of U.S. Arctic 
resources and outline the particular actions that lessees, owners, and 
operators must take to meet those expectations. BOEM and BSEE do not 
anticipate that these requirements, or their associated costs, will 
prevent lessees and operators from conducting exploratory drilling on 
their leases. In pursuing such operations, Arctic OCS lessees and 
operators are well aware of the significant challenges presented by 
Arctic OCS conditions, and the final rule largely reflects 
clarification and codification of the Bureaus' expectations under 
existing regulations and industry standards for the relevant 
operations. In fact, the additional clarity and specificity provided by 
the final

[[Page 46483]]

rule should assist the oil and gas industry to plan better and to more 
effectively conduct exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS with lower 
risk. As discussed later in this final rule, the positive impact of 
such production on U.S. energy independence and energy security could 
be substantial if hydrocarbon resources can be extracted and marketed 
economically. Thus, this final rule would help achieve the NSAR goals 
of protecting the unique and sensitive Arctic ecosystems, as well as 
the subsistence-based health and culture of nearby Alaska Native 
communities, while reducing reliance on imported oil and strengthening 
National energy security.

E. Availability of Incorporated Documents for Public Viewing

    BSEE frequently uses standards (e.g., codes, specifications, 
Recommended Practices (RP)) developed through a consensus process, 
facilitated by standards development organizations and with input from 
the oil and gas industry, as a means of establishing requirements for 
activities on the OCS. BSEE may incorporate these standards into its 
regulations without republishing the standards in their entirety in the 
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), a practice known as incorporation by 
reference. The legal effect of incorporation by reference is that the 
incorporated standards become regulatory requirements. This 
incorporated material, like any other properly issued regulation, has 
the force and effect of law, and BSEE holds operators, lessees and 
other regulated parties accountable for complying with the documents 
incorporated by reference in our regulations. We currently incorporate 
by reference over 100 consensus standards in BSEE's regulations 
governing offshore oil and gas operations (see 30 CFR 250.198).
    Federal regulations, at 1 CFR part 51, govern how BSEE and other 
Federal agencies incorporate various documents by reference. Agencies 
may only incorporate a document by reference by publishing in the 
Federal Register the document title, edition, date, author, publisher, 
identification number, and other specified information. The Director of 
the Federal Register must approve each publication incorporated by 
reference in a final rule. Incorporation by reference of a document or 
publication is limited to the specific edition cited by the agency in 
the final rule and approved by the Director of the Federal Register.
    BSEE incorporates by reference in its regulations many oil and gas 
industry standards in order to require compliance with those standards 
in offshore operations. When a copyrighted publication is incorporated 
by reference into BSEE regulations, BSEE is obligated to observe and 
protect that copyright. BSEE provides members of the public with Web 
site addresses where these standards may be accessed for viewing--
sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee. Standards development 
organizations decide whether to charge a fee. One such organization, 
the American Petroleum Institute (API), provides free online public 
access to review its key industry standards, including a broad range of 
technical standards. These standards represent almost one-third of all 
API standards and include all that are safety-related or are 
incorporated into Federal regulations. One of those standards is 
incorporated by reference in this final rule. In addition to the free 
online availability of the standard for viewing on API's Web site, 
hardcopies and printable versions are available for purchase from API. 
The API Web site address is: http://www.api.org/publications-standards-and-statistics/publications/government-cited-safety-documents.\5\
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    \5\ To review these standards online, go to the API publications 
Web site at: http://publications.api.org. You must then log-in or 
create a new account, accept API's ``Terms and Conditions,'' click 
on the ``Browse Documents'' button, and then select the applicable 
category (e.g., ``Exploration and Production'') for the standard(s) 
you wish to review.
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    For the convenience of members of the viewing public who may not 
wish to purchase or view these incorporated documents online, they may 
be inspected at BSEE's office, 45600 Woodland Road, Sterling, Virginia 
20166; phone: 703-787-1665.

F. Summary of Documents Incorporated by Reference

    This rulemaking is substantive in terms of the content that is 
explicitly stated in the rule text itself, and it also incorporates by 
reference a technical standard concerning structures and pipelines for 
offshore Arctic conditions. A brief summary of the standard follows.
ANSI/API Recommended Practice 2N, Recommended Practice for Planning, 
Designing, and Constructing Structures and Pipelines for Arctic 
Conditions
    This standard was developed in response to the offshore industry's 
demand for a coherent and consistent definition of methodologies to 
design, analyze, and assess arctic and cold region offshore structures. 
This standard also addresses issues such as topsides, winterization, 
and escape, evacuation, and rescue that go beyond what is strictly 
necessary for the design, construction, transportation, installation, 
and decommissioning of the structure. These issues are essential for 
offshore operations in arctic and cold region conditions and they are 
not covered in other standards. When future editions of this and other 
standards are prepared, effort will be made to avoid duplication of 
scope.

II. Background

A. Statutory and Regulatory Overview

1. Procedural History
    On February 24, 2015, BOEM and BSEE published an NPRM in the 
Federal Register entitled, ``Oil and Gas Operations in the Outer 
Continental Shelf--Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic 
Outer Continental Shelf'' (80 FR 9916). In response to several 
commenters' requests, we published a 30-day extension of the comment 
period for the NPRM on April 20, 2015 (80 FR 21670). We received 1,311 
letters to the docket for the rulemaking, from over 100,000 individual 
commenters on the NPRM. We summarize these comments in the preamble of 
this final rule in Section IV.B Discussion of and Responses to 
Comments. Between June 6, 2013 and July 15, 2016, BOEM and BSEE held 
several meetings as part of tribal consultations on this rulemaking in 
the following Alaskan locations: Kotzebue, Point Hope, Point Lay, 
Barrow, Wainwright, and via teleconference with Nuiqsut. Comments 
received from Alaska Native Tribes and ANCSA Corporations, both written 
and oral, are summarized in Section IV.B. Discussion of these 
consultations with Alaska Native Tribes and Corporations appears in the 
preamble at Section V.I Consultation with Indian Tribes (E.O 13175).
2. OCSLA
    The OCSLA, 43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., was first enacted in 1953, and 
substantially amended in 1978, when Congress established a national 
policy of making the OCS ``available for expeditious and orderly 
development, subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is 
consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national 
needs'' (43 U.S.C. 1332(3)). In addition, Congress emphasized the need 
to develop OCS mineral resources in a safe manner ``by well-trained 
personnel using technology, precautions, and techniques sufficient to 
prevent or minimize the likelihood of blowouts, loss of well control, 
fires, spillages,

[[Page 46484]]

physical obstruction to other users of the waters or subsoil and 
seabed, or other occurrences which may cause damage to the environment 
or to property, or endanger life or health'' (43 U.S.C. 1332(6)). The 
Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) administers the OCSLA's 
provisions relating to the leasing of the OCS and regulation of mineral 
exploration and development operations on those leases. The Secretary 
is authorized to prescribe ``such rules and regulations as may be 
necessary to carry out [OCSLA's] provisions'' and ``may at any time 
prescribe and amend such rules and regulations as [s]he determines to 
be necessary and proper in order to provide for the prevention of waste 
and conservation of the natural resources of the [OCS] . . .'' which 
``shall, as of their effective date, apply to all operations conducted 
under a lease issued or maintained under the provisions of [OCSLA]'' 
(43 U.S.C. 1334(a)).
    The Secretary delegated most of the responsibilities under the 
OCSLA to BOEM and BSEE, both of which are charged with administering 
and regulating aspects of the Nation's OCS oil and gas program (see 
Sec.  250.101 and Sec.  550.101). BOEM and BSEE work to promote safety, 
protect the environment, and conserve offshore resources through 
vigorous regulatory oversight.
    BOEM manages the development of the Nation's offshore energy 
resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way. 
BOEM's functions include leasing; exploration, development and 
production plan administration and review; environmental analyses to 
ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
(NEPA); environmental studies; resource evaluation; economic analysis; 
complying with other Federal laws (e.g., the Endangered Species Act 
(ESA)); and management of the OCS renewable energy program.
    BSEE performs offshore regulatory oversight and enforcement to 
ensure safety and environmentally sound performance during operations, 
and the conservation of OCS resources, by, among other things, 
evaluating drilling permits, and conducting inspections to ensure 
compliance with laws, regulations, lease terms, and approved plans and 
permits.
    Prior to commencing exploration for oil and gas on the OCS, OCSLA 
and its implementing regulations (43 U.S.C. 1340(c)(1); Sec.  
550.201(a)) require lessees to submit an EP to BOEM for approval. An EP 
must include information such as a schedule of anticipated exploration 
activities, equipment to be used, the general location of each well to 
be drilled, and any other information deemed pertinent by BOEM 
(Sec. Sec.  550.211 through 550.228).
    However, approval of an EP does not by itself permit the lessee to 
proceed with exploratory drilling. After the EP is approved, the lessee 
must submit to BSEE an Application for Permit to Drill (APD), which 
BSEE must approve before a lessee may drill a well (43 U.S.C. 1340(d); 
Sec.  250.410)). The APD must be consistent with the approved EP and 
include information on the well location, the drilling design and 
procedures, casing and cementing programs, the diverter and Blowout 
Preventer (BOP) systems, MODU (if one is used), and additional 
information requested by the District Manager.
    BOEM evaluates EPs, and BSEE evaluates APDs, to determine whether 
the operator's proposed activities meet the OCSLA's standards and each 
Bureau's regulations governing OCS exploration. The regulatory 
requirements include, but are not limited to, ensuring that the 
proposed drilling operation:
    i. Conforms to OCSLA, as amended, its applicable implementing 
regulations, lease provisions and stipulations, and other applicable 
laws;
    ii. Is conducted in a safe manner;
    iii. Conforms to sound conservation practices and protects the 
rights of the U.S. in the mineral resources of the OCS;
    iv. Does not unreasonably interfere with other uses of the OCS; and
    v. Does not cause undue or serious harm or damage to the human, 
marine, or coastal environments (Sec. Sec.  250.101 and 250.106; 
550.101 and 550.202).
    Based on these evaluations, BOEM and BSEE will approve the lessee's 
(or operator's) EP and APD, require the lessee (or operator) to modify 
its submissions, or disapprove the EP or APD (Sec. Sec.  250.410; 
550.233).
3. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) and Clean Water Act (CWA)
    Congress passed the OPA, 33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq., following the 
Exxon Valdez oil spill. The OPA amended the CWA, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et 
seq., by, among other things, adding OSRP requirements for offshore 
facilities. The OPA provides for prompt federally coordinated responses 
to offshore oil spills and for compensation of spill victims. It also 
calls for the issuance of regulations prohibiting owners and operators 
of offshore facilities from operating or handling, storing, or 
transporting oil until:
    i. They have prepared and submitted ``a plan for responding, to the 
maximum extent practicable, to a worst case discharge (WCD), and to a 
substantial threat of such a discharge, of oil . . .;''
    ii. The plan ``has been approved by the President;'' and
    iii. The ``facility is operating in compliance with the plan'' (OPA 
section 4202(a), codified at 33 U.S.C. 1321(j)(5)(A)(i) and (F)(i)-
(ii)).
    E.O. 12777 (October 18, 1991) delegated to the Secretary the 
functions of 33 U.S.C. 1321(j)(5) and (j)(6)(A) related to offshore 
facilities (other than deep water ports). This includes the 
promulgation of regulations governing the obligation to prepare and 
submit OSRPs, the review and approval of OSRPs, and the periodic 
verification of spill response capabilities related to these plans. 
Those applicable regulations are administered by BSEE and are at parts 
250 and 254. E.O. 12777 also delegated to the Secretary the authority 
to implement, for offshore facilities, 33 U.S.C. 1321(j)(1)(C), which 
provides for the issuance of regulations ``establishing procedures, 
methods, and equipment and other requirements for equipment to prevent 
discharges of oil and hazardous substances from . . . offshore 
facilities, and to contain such discharges.''

B. Factual Overview of the Arctic OCS Region

1. Arctic OCS Oil and Gas Activity
    There has been a renewed interest in the oil and gas potential of 
the Alaska OCS since the first exploratory wells were drilled in the 
late 1970s. The majority of exploratory drilling north of the Arctic 
Circle has occurred where the greatest oil and gas resource potential 
exists, namely the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas (see 
Figure 1). A total of 30 exploratory wells have been drilled on the 
Beaufort OCS since the first Federal OCS leases were offered, and more 
wells have been drilled beneath the near-shore Beaufort Sea under the 
jurisdiction of the State of Alaska. The Chukchi Sea Planning Area has 
a more limited history of leasing and exploration. Before 2012, only a 
total of five exploratory wells had been drilled there (between 1989 
and 1991 \6\), and no explored prospect was considered economically 
viable for development.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ See BOEM Alaska Region Web site available at www.boem.gov/About-BOEM/BOEM-Regions/Alaska-Region/Historical-Data/Index.aspx.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Until Shell's 2012 and 2015 exploratory operations, there had been 
only one exploratory well drilled on the Arctic OCS since 1994--the 
2003

[[Page 46485]]

exploratory well near Prudhoe Bay in the Beaufort Sea (see BOEM 
Assessment of Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Oil and Gas 
Resources of the Nation's Outer Continental Shelf (2016). In 2012, 
Shell drilled two ``top hole'' wells (i.e., a partial well not intended 
to enter hydrocarbon zones), one in the Chukchi Sea (Burger Prospect) 
and the other in the Beaufort Sea (Sivulliq). In 2015, Shell completed 
an exploratory well in the Burger prospect of the Chukchi Sea; however, 
according to Shell, indications of oil and gas were ``not sufficient to 
warrant further exploration in the Burger prospect.'' \7\
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    \7\ http://www.shell.com/global/aboutshell/media/news-and-media-releases/2015/shell-updates-on-alaska-exploration.html.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR15JY16.099

    With the exception of three OCS leases making up a portion of the 
Northstar oil field, currently operated by Hilcorp Alaska, LLC, from 
State submerged lands in the Beaufort Sea, no production has yet 
resulted from Alaska OCS leases.
2. Challenges to U.S. Arctic Oil and Gas Operations
    The challenges to conducting operations and responding to 
emergencies in the extreme and variable environmental and weather 
conditions in the Arctic are demanding. Both the Beaufort Sea and 
Chukchi Sea Planning Areas experience sub-freezing temperatures during 
most of the year, extended periods of low-light visibility, significant 
fog cover in the summer, strong winds and currents, storms that produce 
freezing spray and dangerous sea states, snow, and significant ice 
cover. During the fall (September-November), conditions become 
increasingly inhospitable as air temperatures decrease, wind speeds 
increase, storms become more frequent, and sea ice begins to form, all 
of which make Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations more 
challenging.\8\ Other challenges to conducting operations and 
responding to emergencies on the Arctic OCS include the geographical 
remoteness and relative lack of established infrastructure to support 
oil and gas operations, as well as the presence of protected marine 
mammals and Alaska Native subsistence activities.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ See Environmental Assessments for Shell Offshore, Inc.'s 
Revised Outer Continental Shelf Lease Exploration Plan, Camden Bay, 
Beaufort Sea, Alaska (2011), Revised Outer Continental Shelf Lease 
Exploration Plan, Chukchi Sea, Alaska, Burger Prospect (2015), and 
Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc.'s Revised Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan 
Burger Prospect (2011); BOEM Alaska Region Web site available at 
http://www.boem.gov/About-BOEM/BOEM-Regions/Alaska-Region/Environment/Environmental-Analysis/Environmental-Impact-Statements-and-Major-Environmental-Assessments.aspx.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

III. Regulations for Arctic OCS Exploratory Drilling

    The existing OCS oil and gas regulatory regime is extensive and 
covers all offshore facilities or operations in any OCS region, as 
appropriate and applicable, including the Arctic OCS. BOEM and BSEE 
apply these regulations while overseeing OCS leasing, exploration, 
development, production, and decommissioning. Operators are subject to 
the same regulatory requirements, such as: Application procedures and 
information requirements for exploration, development, and production 
activities; pollution prevention and control; safety requirements for 
casing and cementing and the use of a BOP and diverter systems; design, 
installation, use and maintenance of OCS platforms to ensure structural 
integrity and safe and environmentally protective operations; 
decommissioning; development and implementation of Safety and 
Environmental Management Systems (SEMS); and preparation and submission 
of OSRPs (see generally 30 CFR parts 250, 254, and 550).
    The existing regulations also contain provisions that apply to 
specific regions or atypical activities or operating conditions, 
especially, for example, where drilling occurs in deep water or in a 
``frontier'' area (typically characterized by its remote location and 
limited infrastructure and operational history, such as the Arctic OCS 
region).

[[Page 46486]]

In these situations, BOEM and BSEE have special requirements, such as 
information and design requirements for deep-water development projects 
(Sec. Sec.  250.286 through 250.295); use of appropriate equipment, 
third-party audits, and contingency plans in frontier areas or other 
areas subject to subfreezing conditions (Sec. Sec.  250.713(c) and 
250.418(f)); the placement of subsea BOP systems in mudline cellars 
when drilling occurs in areas subject to ice-scouring (Sec.  250.738); 
and emergency plans and critical operations and curtailment procedures 
information in the Arctic OCS Region (Sec. Sec.  550.220 and 550.251).
    Though there is currently a generally applicable OCS oil and gas 
regulatory program, there is a need for new and amended regulatory 
measures specifically for Arctic OCS exploratory drilling by MODUs. 
This final rule, in combination with the existing regulations (which 
continue to apply to Arctic OCS operations unless otherwise expressly 
stated) will ensure that exploratory drilling operations are well 
planned from the outset and conducted safely and responsibly in 
relation to the unique Arctic environment and the local communities 
that are closely connected to the region and its resources. The key 
elements of the final rule are as follows:

A. Measures That Address Recommendations

    The final rule addresses recommendations contained in several 
recent reports on OCS oil and gas activities, including the Arctic 
Council, Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines (2009); the National 
Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling 
(2011); Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee Recommendations (2013); 
DOI's 60-Day Report (2013); the E.O. 13580 Alaska Energy Permitting 
IWG's report entitled, ``Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing 
Arctic, A Report to the President'' (March 2013); the NSAR (May 2013); 
the Arctic Council, Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines: Systems 
Safety Management and Safety Culture (March 2014); and the National 
Petroleum Council (NPC), Arctic Potential: Realizing the Promise of 
U.S. Arctic Oil and Gas Resources (2015).

B. Approval of Alternate Procedures or Equipment

    Numerous comments were submitted on the NPRM requesting a more 
performance-based approach to regulating exploratory drilling 
operations on the Arctic OCS. As discussed in depth in Section IV. B, 
Discussion of and Responses to Comments, we are aware that methods for 
source control and containment, securing a well, or killing and 
permanently plugging an out-of-control well on the Arctic OCS may 
include available technology for which there are no recognized industry 
standards or best practices. Accordingly, several of the final 
regulations are intended to convey an overarching performance 
requirement. For example, the operator must have the means available to 
secure any uncontrolled flow of hydrocarbons and kill the out-of-
control well prior to seasonal ice encroachment. The regulations also 
provide prescriptive elements establishing means to comply with that 
requirement using existing, proven technology. And finally, the 
regulations provide a clear pathway towards alternative compliance 
measures to account for future technological advances. To further 
clarify our intent, we are revising the proposed language of both Sec.  
250.471, What are the requirements for Arctic OCS source control and 
containment?, and Sec.  250.472, What are the relief rig requirements 
for the Arctic OCS? Paragraph (a) of Sec.  250.471 is revised and a new 
paragraph (i) in Sec.  250.471 is added to clearly convey the 
performance standard an operator must be able to demonstrate when 
requesting approval for alternative procedures or equipment to the 
SCCE--i.e., response capabilities able to stop or capture the flow of 
an out-of-control well. Similarly, we are also revising the provisions 
at paragraphs (a) and (c) of Sec.  250.472 to clarify that alternative 
procedures or equipment to the relief rig requirements must be capable 
of killing and permanently plugging an out-of-control well in less than 
45 days.
    Furthermore, existing regulations will continue to allow operators 
to use new and emergent technology on the OCS in certain circumstances 
and upon demonstrating adequate safety and environmental protection. 
Under Sec.  250.141, May I ever use alternate procedures or equipment?, 
the District Manager or Regional Supervisor may approve the use of 
alternate procedures or equipment provided the operator can show the 
technology will meet or exceed the level of safety and environmental 
protection required by the current regulations. This provision enables 
operators to request approval for innovative technological advancements 
that may provide additional flexibility, provided the operator clearly 
establishes that such technology will meet or exceed the level of 
protection provided by the regulatory requirements. The operator is 
responsible for providing sufficient data to BSEE to adequately 
demonstrate the safety of the technology or operations. To obtain 
approval under Sec.  250.141, an operator should submit information 
regarding its proposed alternate technology, which could include:
    1. Laboratory tests results, test protocols, test procedures, 
testing methodologies, Quality Assurance/Quality Control provisions, 
manufacturer testing, and/or qualification or accreditation procedures 
implemented by an independent third party relevant to the performance 
characteristics of such equipment when used in a real world 
environment;
    2. Actual operational performance of such equipment if previously 
used or currently being used in other areas under similar conditions; 
and
    3. Additional studies, evaluations, or risk and/or hazards analyses 
relevant to the equipment or procedures under consideration.

C. IOP Requirement

    During exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS, operators 
may face substantial environmental challenges and operational risks 
throughout every phase of the endeavor, including preparations, 
mobilization, in-theater drilling operations, emergency response and 
preparedness, and demobilization. Thorough advanced planning is 
critical to mitigating these challenges and risks. One of the key 
components of this final rule is a requirement that operators explain 
how their proposed Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations are fully 
integrated from start to finish in a manner that accounts for Arctic 
OCS conditions and that they provide this information to DOI at an 
early stage of the planning process.
    This final rule requires that operators develop and submit IOPs to 
BOEM at least 90 days in advance of filing their EPs. The purpose of 
the IOP is to describe, at a strategic or conceptual level, how 
exploratory drilling operations will be designed, executed, and managed 
as an integrated endeavor from start to finish. The IOP is intended to 
be a concept of operations that includes a description of pertinent 
aspects of an operator's proposed exploratory drilling activities and 
supporting operations and how the operator will design and conduct its 
program in a manner that accounts for the challenges presented by 
Arctic OCS conditions. The primary issues that operators must address 
in their IOPs include:

[[Page 46487]]

    1. Vessel and equipment designs and configurations;
    2. The overall schedule of operations, including contractor work on 
critical components;
    3. Mobilization and demobilization operations and maintenance 
schedule(s);
    4. In-theater drilling program objectives and timelines for each 
objective;
    5. Weather and ice forecasting and management capabilities;
    6. Contractor management and oversight;
    7. Operational safety principles;
    8. Preparation and staging of spill response assets;
    9. Impact on local community infrastructure, including but not 
limited to housing, energy supplies and services; and
    10. Extent the project will rely on local community workforce and 
spill clean-up response capacity.
    DOI recognizes that other Federal agencies have primary oversight 
responsibility for some of the previously listed activities. Upon 
receipt of the IOP, DOI would engage with members of the E.O. 13580 
Alaska Energy Permitting IWG and promptly distribute the IOP to the 
State of Alaska and Federal government agencies making up the Alaska 
Energy Permitting IWG and others that are involved in the review, 
approval, or oversight of various aspects of OCS operations.
    However, the IOP process does not entail any mechanism through 
which agencies can or must approve the operator's proposed activities 
described in the IOP. The IOP is intended to be a conceptual, 
informational document designed to ensure that an operator has planned 
to address risks associated with the full suite of regulated 
activities, and to provide the relevant regulatory agencies a preview 
of an operator's approach to regulatory compliance and integrated 
planning. It is also anticipated that an operator would already develop 
much of this requested information as a part of its internal planning 
for potential activity. Thus, the IOP enables relevant agencies to 
familiarize themselves, early in the planning process, with the 
operator's overall proposed program from start to finish. This, in 
turn, allows DOI and those agencies to coordinate and provide early 
input to the operator regarding potential issues presented by the 
proposed activities with respect to any future EP reviews and 
permitting requirements, including aspects of the program that might 
require additional details or refinement. The IOP requirement--and the 
final rule in general--will not, however, interfere with or supplant 
operators' obligations to comply with all other applicable Federal 
agency requirements. Each agency that receives an IOP would continue to 
review the relevant details of an operator's planned activities for 
compliance with that agency's regulatory requirements in the 
appropriate manner and at the appropriate time under its own regulatory 
program.

D. SCCE and Relief Rig Capabilities

    In Arctic OCS exploratory drilling, there is a need for operators 
to demonstrate that they have access to, and could promptly deploy, 
well control and containment resources that would be adequate to 
respond to a loss of well control. This equipment is readily available 
and accessible in the Gulf of Mexico due to the level of activity in 
that area, but is not similarly available in the Arctic as a matter of 
normal course. Ensuring that operators have redundant protective 
measures in place is critical, as there is no guarantee that a single 
measure could control or contain a WCD. Therefore, BSEE is requiring 
that operators who use a MODU for Arctic OCS exploratory drilling must 
be able to stop or capture the flow of an out-of-control well by having 
access to, and the ability to deploy, SCCE (e.g., a capping stack, cap 
and flow system, and containment dome) within the timeframes discussed 
in this final rule and that the SCCE be capable of functioning in 
Arctic OCS conditions.
    BSEE is also requiring operators to have access to a separate 
relief rig, staged at a location such that it could arrive on site, 
drill a relief well, kill and abandon the original well, and abandon 
the relief well prior to expected seasonal ice encroachment at the 
drill site and in no event later than 45 days after the loss of well 
control. This equipment is fundamental to safe and responsible 
operations on the Arctic OCS, where existing infrastructure is sparse, 
the geography and logistics make bringing equipment and resources into 
the region challenging, and the time available to mount response 
operations is limited by changing weather and ice conditions, 
particularly at the end of the drilling season.
    The 45-day period is the maximum time allowed for conducting relief 
rig operations. However, it is a performance-based requirement and 
leaves the means of compliance up to the operator. The operator may 
seek to demonstrate its ability to complete relief well operations in 
less than 45 days, subject to review by BOEM in the EP process under 
Sec.  550.22(c)(4) and BSEE's review during the APD process under Sec.  
250.470(c). The length of the ``shoulder season'', or the period of 
time operators may not drill or work below the surface casing, depends 
upon how long operations related to the use of a relief rig can be 
expected to take. An operator must demonstrate how long it will take 
for a relief rig to arrive on site, drill a relief well, kill and 
abandon the original well and abandon the relief well prior to expected 
seasonal ice encroachment at the drill site (or trigger date). In 
evaluating this demonstration, consideration may be given to a number 
of factors, including but not limited to: The distance of drilling 
operations to the shore; available infrastructure; and the capacity and 
location of oil spill response equipment. The trigger date, established 
by BOEM (in consultation with the National Weather Service (NWS) and 
the operator)), restricts when the operator can drill or work below the 
surface casing in order to address risks associated with late season 
drilling and ensure an opportunity for spill response and cleanup in 
favorable conditions. BSEE notes the operator's actual timeframe to 
drill a relief well would be based on consideration of the distance 
between anticipated exploratory drilling sites, the availability of 
adequate staging locations for relief rigs, the length and complexity 
of rig transit, and the time necessary to complete the requisite 
operations once on-site. The 45-day maximum timeframe is intended to 
ensure a timely response and prevent an extended uncontrolled flow of 
hydrocarbons in the event of a loss of well control early in the open 
water season.
    As discussed previously in Section III.B, we have revised the 
proposed language for the SCCE provisions at paragraph (a) of Sec.  
250.471 and added a new paragraph (i) in Sec.  250.471, and revised the 
relief rig provisions at paragraphs (a) and (c) of Sec.  250.472, to 
clearly state the standards operators must meet to satisfy the 
requirements, while also alternatively providing that operators may 
request approval of an alternate technology under existing Sec.  
250.141, if the operator can show the alternate technology will meet or 
exceed the level of safety and environmental protection provided by the 
SCCE and relief rigs requirements. This provision enables operators to 
request approval for innovative technological advancements that may 
provide additional flexibility.

E. Planning for the Variability and Challenges of the Arctic OCS 
Conditions

    Reliable weather and ice forecasting play a significant role in 
ensuring safe

[[Page 46488]]

operations on the Arctic OCS. Advanced forecasting and tracking 
technology, information sharing among industry and government, and 
local knowledge of the operating environment are essential to managing 
the substantial challenges and risks that Arctic OCS conditions pose 
for all OCS operations. In light of the threats posed by ice and 
extreme weather events, BOEM and BSEE require that operators include in 
their IOPs, EPs, and APDs, at appropriate levels of specificity for 
each document, a description of their weather and ice monitoring and 
forecasting capabilities for all phases of their exploration program, 
as well as their alert procedures and thresholds for activating ice and 
weather management systems. Once operations commence, this rule 
requires operators to:
    1. Notify BOEM and BSEE immediately of any sea ice movement or 
condition that has the potential to affect operations or trigger ice 
management activities; and
    2. Notify BSEE of the start and termination of ice management 
activities and submit written reports after completing such activities.

F. Arctic OCS Oil Spill Response Preparedness

    Operators need to be prepared for a quick and effective response in 
the event of an oil spill on the Arctic OCS and be ready to coordinate 
activities with the Federal government and other stakeholders. The 
OSRPs and related activities should be tailored to the unique Arctic 
OCS operating environment to ensure that operators have the necessary 
equipment, training, and personnel. Among other things, this final rule 
establishes specific planning requirements to maximize the application 
of oil spill response technology and ensure a coordinated response 
system designed to address the challenges inherent to the U.S. Arctic 
region.

G. Reducing Pollution From Arctic OCS Exploratory Drilling Operations

    Partners, primarily Alaska Native Tribes, as well as other 
stakeholders expressed concern that mud and cuttings from exploratory 
drilling could adversely affect marine species (e.g., whales and fish) 
and their habitat and compromise the effectiveness of subsistence 
hunting activities. Existing environmental analyses support these 
concerns regarding petroleum based mud and cuttings and also 
demonstrate that such discharges could affect water quality, benthic 
habitat, and marine organisms within the localized area (see, e.g., 
Shell Revised Outer Continental Shelf Lease Exploration Plan, Chukchi 
Sea, Alaska, Burger Prospect (2015)).
    BSEE is requiring the capture of all petroleum-based mud and 
associated cuttings from Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations to 
prevent the discharge of such pollutants into the marine environment. 
The new provision also clarifies the Regional Supervisor's 
discretionary authority to require that operators capture all water-
based mud and associated cuttings from Arctic OCS exploratory drilling 
operations (after completion of the hole for the conductor casing) to 
prevent their discharge into the marine environment. The Regional 
Supervisor would exercise this discretion based on various factors, 
such as the proximity of exploratory drilling operations to subsistence 
hunting and fishing locations or the extent to which such discharges 
might cause marine mammals and birds to alter their migratory patterns 
in a manner that interferes with subsistence activities or might 
adversely affect marine mammals, fish, birds, or their habitat(s).

H. Oversight, Management, and Accountability of Operations and 
Contractor Support

    An effective risk management framework at the beginning of a 
project incorporates many components, including planning, vessel 
design, contractor selection, and an assessment of regulatory 
requirements for all facets of the project. DOI is requiring that 
operators provide an explanation, starting in the IOP, at a conceptual 
level, of how they would apply their oversight and risk management 
protocols to both their personnel and their contractors to support safe 
and responsible exploratory drilling. These new regulations, in 
conjunction with DOI's existing regulations, require varying levels of 
information about operator safety and oversight management at 
progressive stages of the planning and approval process. This would 
start with the most general information and increase the level of 
detail with successive regulatory submittals, as the project proceeds 
from planning to implementation (e.g., IOP to EP to APD).
    In addition, the final rule requires Arctic OCS operators to:
    1. Report threatening sea ice conditions and ice management 
activities, and unexpected operational issues that could result in a 
loss of well control;
    2. Conduct real-time monitoring of various aspects of well 
operations,
    3. Increase their SEMS auditing frequency; and,
    4. Enhance their oil spill preparedness and response capabilities 
for Arctic OCS operations.
    A summary of the changes that this final rule makes to the 
provisions proposed by the NPRM follows:

IV. Section-By-Section Discussion of Changes and Comments

    This section summarizes the requirements proposed in the NPRM and 
how they are addressed in this final rule. Some of these provisions 
received no comments during the public comment period, while other 
provisions were supported or criticized by certain commenters. Section 
IV.A discusses the changes from the proposed to the final rule. Section 
IV.B discusses the public comments received and our responses to the 
comments. Many of these provisions and concepts are described in more 
detail above in Section III.

A. Summary of Key Changes From the NPRM

    This section includes a description of how the final rule differs 
from the provisions proposed by the NPRM (80 FR 9916 (February 24, 
2015)) along with an explanation of why the changes in the final rule 
are necessary. For a full discussion of comments and BOEM and BSEE 
responses, see section IV.B Discussion of and Responses to Comments.
Definitions. (Sec.  250.105)
    BSEE is revising the proposed definition of ``capping stack'' to 
clarify that the required capping stack may be pre-positioned. Although 
the proposed definition did not preclude the use of a pre-positioned 
capping stack, in response to comments we determined a clarification to 
the definition of capping stack is appropriate. Accordingly, the 
addition of the clarification that the capping stack may be pre-
positioned to the definition does not create a new category of capping 
stack, but instead clarifies that the use of a capping stack is not 
limited to subsea wellheads when surface BOPs are used. The revised 
definition makes clear that pre-positioned capping stacks may be used 
below subsea BOPs. BSEE will evaluate the use of a pre-positioned 
capping stack as a part of an operator's proposal on a case-by-case 
basis and approve their use when deemed technically and operationally 
appropriate, such as when the operator proposes to use a jack-up rig 
with surface trees.
When and how must I secure a well? (formerly Sec.  250.402)
    BSEE is revising the language of proposed Sec.  250.402(c)(2) to 
clarify the

[[Page 46489]]

circumstances under which BSEE may approve an equivalent means to 
satisfy the requirement that, in areas of ice scour, an operator must 
use a mudline cellar. We note the former Sec.  250.402 was removed and 
reserved and the contents were moved to Sec.  250.720 in the Blowout 
Preventer Systems and Well Control Final Rule (Well Control Rule) (80 
FR 25888) published April 29, 2016. Therefore, the revisions to 
proposed Sec.  250.402(c)(2) discussed here have been finalized as 
Sec.  250.720(c)(2) in this rulemaking. The proposed rule provided that 
the operator may use an equivalent means to minimize the risk of damage 
to the well head. In response to comments expressing concern for the 
operational risks presented by the mudline cellar when using a jack-up 
rig, BSEE has clarified what an operator should show when requesting to 
utilize an equivalent alternative that minimizes risk to both the well 
head and the wellbore. Having a mudline cellar in place to protect the 
well head and wellbore provides an additional protection against a loss 
of well control and possible release of hydrocarbons to the 
environment. Accordingly, we have revised the language to clarify that 
an operator seeking approval of an equivalent means must show that a 
mudline cellar would create operational risks, as finalized at Sec.  
250.720(c) as set out in the regulatory text at the end of this 
document.
When must I pressure test the BOP system? (Sec.  250.447)
    The proposed amendments to Sec.  250.447(b) are not being included 
in the final rule. BSEE has decided to maintain the same 14-day BOP 
pressure test cycle on the Arctic OCS as is required elsewhere on the 
OCS. The existing regulation in paragraph (a)(4) of Sec.  250.737 
provides that the District Manager or Regional Supervisor may require 
more frequent testing if conditions or BOP performance warrant.
    As discussed in Section IV.B, Discussion of and Response to 
Comments, many commenters to the proposed 7-day BOP testing requirement 
were concerned that increasing the number of pressure tests may reduce 
the reliability of the equipment by degrading the sealing capability of 
the elements within the BOP stack and would not necessarily demonstrate 
the future performance of the equipment. Commenters also asserted that 
the requirement for operators to stop drilling operations to perform a 
pressure test could ultimately increase the likelihood of an incident 
occurring. The BOP is a critical line of defense against loss of well 
control. Ensuring the proper functioning of the BOP is essential to all 
OCS drilling operations BSEE considered whether the integrity of BOPs 
could be compromised by Arctic OCS conditions; in particular, BSEE 
considered the possible effects of extreme weather conditions on BOPs 
maintained on surface vessels or facilities (such as jack-up rigs). At 
this time, pressure tests and functional tests are the primary methods 
for ensuring the performance of BOPs. BSEE considered these and other 
issues raised via public comments and has determined not to require 
increased testing frequency on the Arctic OCS.
    BSEE recognizes the importance of ensuring the proper functioning 
of the BOP. Shell proposed a 7-day BOP testing cycle in 2012, and BSEE 
ultimately approved that approach for Shell. We proposed in the NPRM to 
require a similar testing frequency for all Arctic OCS exploratory 
drilling operations, due to the possibility that the integrity of BOPs 
could be compromised by Arctic conditions. BSEE specifically requested 
comments on the appropriateness of the proposed 7-day testing frequency 
to demonstrate the reliability of the equipment under Arctic 
conditions; any additional safety issues that might arise from this 
increased testing or that would be unique to Arctic operations; and all 
potential drilling impacts related to the proposed 7-day testing 
frequency.
    Comments on BOP testing frequency fell largely into two groups: 
Supporters of the 14-day (or longer) test cycle and supporters of the 
7-day test cycle. BSEE considered all of the comments, the information 
and justifications provided by the commenters, and various studies in 
deciding the appropriate test frequency. After careful consideration, 
BSEE determined that increasing the testing frequency to 7-days could 
cause increased wear-and-tear and fatigue on the equipment, without 
measurably increasing the reliability of the BOPs. No significant 
evidence was presented by supporters of a 7-day test cycle that 
demonstrated that more frequent testing in all situations would 
increase safety, and no evidence was presented for why BSEE should have 
a different requirement for BOP pressure tests in the Arctic than 
elsewhere on the OCS.
    Therefore, in the final rule BSEE removed the proposed amendments 
that would have required operators to test their BOP systems every 7 
days during Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations. Existing 
regulatory provisions address similar protection concerns. Paragraph 
(a)(4) of Sec.  250.737 allows for the District Manager, to require 
more frequent testing if conditions (Arctic or otherwise) or the BOP 
performance warrant. Additionally, Sec.  250.737(d)(9) requires a 
function test of the annular and ram BOPs every 7 days, between 
pressure tests, ensuring the BOP rams will function in all operating 
conditions.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ Throughout this preamble, the Bureaus refer to regulatory 
provisions promulgated through the recently-finalized Blowout 
Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule (81 FR 25888 (April 29, 
2016)) (WCR). To accommodate the respective timing of these rules, 
those references and the related discussions of the relevant WCR 
provisions are based upon the working assumption that those elements 
of the WCR go into effect as promulgated.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

What are the real-time monitoring requirements for Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling operations? (Sec.  250.452)
    BSEE is revising the proposed Sec.  250.452 to clarify the 
operator's responsibilities for complying with the real-time monitoring 
(RTM) requirements.
    Paragraph (a) of Sec.  250.452 is revised by deleting the phrase 
``all aspects of'' from the provision identifying what functions must 
be monitored. This revision allows the operator flexibility in 
determining which elements of the identified functions will be 
monitored. The operator is responsible for recording, storing, and 
transmitting data regarding the BOP system; the well fluid's handling 
systems on the rig; and the well's downhole conditions as monitored by 
a downhole sensing system, when such a system is installed. The 
operator will determine what functional aspects of these systems should 
be monitored to meet the performance requirements of this provision.
    BSEE has revised paragraphs (a) and (b) of Sec.  250.452 to make 
clear that it is not necessary to cease operations because of a 
temporary loss of the RTM data feed due to a failure or interruption in 
the RTM data feed to shore. In this type of situation, the operator 
should have the ability to gather and record the data in the control 
room of the offshore unit and transmit the data to shore once the data 
feed is restored. To clarify this, we deleted the word ``immediately'' 
from paragraph (b) of Sec.  250.452 and added the phrase ``as they are 
gathered, barring unforeseeable or unpreventable interruptions in 
transmissions,'' to describe the proper timing of the data 
transmission. Additionally, to clarify that in the event of a failure 
or interruption of the datalink the operator should continue collecting 
RTM data, we added qualifying language to paragraph (a) in Sec.  
250.452, providing that the monitoring system must be ``independent, 
automatic, and

[[Page 46490]]

continuous'' to ensure the operator is able to transmit data, even if 
not immediately, in a timely and appropriate manner.
    We have also revised paragraph (b) in Sec.  250.452 by deleting the 
proposed text: ``and who have the authority, in consultation with rig 
personnel, to initiate any necessary action in response to abnormal 
data or events.'' BSEE recognizes that operators typically seek to 
ensure that command and control decision making is primarily the 
responsibility of the onboard rig personnel, and that the RTM support 
personnel typically function in an advisory capacity. The RTM 
monitoring requirements seek to help improve, not disrupt, the ability 
of onboard rig personnel to monitor operations and assess and mitigate 
risks.
    The final clarifying revision to paragraph (a) in Sec.  250.452 
tightens the language, changing from the proposed ``you must have real-
time data gathering and monitoring, capability to record, store, and 
transmit data'' to now read: ``you must gather and monitor real-time 
data using an independent, automatic, and continuous monitoring system 
capable of recording, storing, and transmitting data.'' Other than as 
discussed above, these revisions are designed to make the regulatory 
language clearer and easier to understand and apply.
What are the requirements for Arctic OCS source control and 
containment? (Sec.  250.471)
    As discussed in Sections III.B Approval of Alternate Procedures or 
Equipment and III.D SCCE and Relief Rig Capabilities, BSEE is revising 
the language proposed in Sec.  250.471 to clarify that operators using 
a MODU when drilling below or working below the surface casing must 
have access to SCCE that is capable of stopping or capturing the flow 
of an out-of-control well. Accordingly, we are revising Sec.  
250.471(a) to clearly state that the operator must have access to SCCE 
equipment capable of ``stopping or capturing the flow of an out-of-
control well''. We are also adding a paragraph (i) to clarify that when 
an operator is requesting approval of alternate procedures or equipment 
to the SCCE requirements under the provisions of Sec.  250.141, the 
operator must demonstrate that the proposed alternate procedures or 
equipment provide a level of safety and environmental protection that 
meets or exceeds that required by BSEE regulations, including 
demonstrating that the alternate procedures or equipment will be 
capable of stopping or capturing the flow of an out-of-control well. 
These revisions are in response to commenters' concerns that the 
language as originally proposed did not clearly state a performance 
standard.
What are the relief rig requirements for the Arctic OCS? (Sec.  
250.472)
    Also as discussed in Sections III.B and III.D, BSEE is revising the 
language proposed in Sec.  250.472 to clarify the performance standard 
that must be met when proposing to use alternate equipment or 
procedures to the relief rig requirements of Sec.  250.472. 
Specifically, we are adding the phrase ``able to kill and permanently 
plug an out-of-control well'' to the language of proposed Sec.  
250.472(a) to clearly state the performance standards the relief rig 
must achieve. We are also revising the language of proposed Sec.  
250.472(c) to clarify that when an operator is requesting approval of 
alternate procedures or equipment to the relief rig requirements under 
the provisions of Sec.  250.141, the operator must demonstrate that the 
proposed alternate procedures or equipment provide a level of safety 
and environmental protection that meets or exceeds that required by 
BSEE regulations, including demonstrating that the alternate procedures 
or equipment will be able to kill and permanently plug an out-of-
control well. These revisions are in response to commenters' requests 
for a clear statement of a performance standard and are designed to 
offer guidance and clarification to operators with respect to the 
performance-based standard established by this rule that any proposed 
alternate compliance must meet or exceed in connection with the 
requirements finalized in this rulemaking.
If I propose activities in the Alaska OCS Region, what planning 
information must accompany the EP? (Sec.  550.220)
    BOEM is revising Sec.  550.220(c)(6)(ii) to clarify the intent of 
the provision. This provision is designed to obtain information 
regarding the operator's relief rig plans through the EP. BOEM has 
revised the provision in response to comments, removing language that 
could potentially create confusion over the interaction between the 
BOEM EP informational provision and the BSEE operational relief rig 
requirements at Sec.  250.472. The intent of Sec.  550.220(c)(6)(ii) is 
to obtain the information that is known at the time of EP submission 
regarding the operator's plans for compliance with the requirements of 
Sec.  250.472(b). Therefore, as a technical correction, we finalized 
the text of Sec.  550.220(c)(6)(ii) without reference to ``into zones 
capable of flowing liquid hydrocarbons.'' This revision is explained in 
further detail in Section IV.B.
Technical and Clarifying Edits
    The Bureaus have made several additional changes between the 
proposed and final regulatory text that are technical made in order to 
clarify edits. These changes result in more easily understandable 
regulations but do not make substantive changes. For this reason, the 
Bureaus have determined that further notice and comment is unnecessary 
pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b).

B. Discussion of and Responses to Comments

    The Bureaus divided our discussion and responses to the comments 
received into subject matter topics, beginning with general comments, 
and then organized them by section number in the order in which 
operators would seek to comply with the regulations during permitting 
and operations.
    Although BSEE permitting and operational requirements appear 
earlier in 30 CFR part 250, with the BOEM requirements following in 30 
CFR part 550, in practice the IOP and EP phases governed by the 30 CFR 
part 550 regulations would precede the drilling approval and oversight 
phases governed by 30 CFR part 250. Requirements to prepare for an oil 
spill, which are contained in part 254, may be met at any time before 
handling, storing, or transporting oil in operations BSEE permits under 
part 250. Consequently, the subject matter topics are presented in this 
preamble in the following order: Definitions of Arctic OCS (Sec. Sec.  
250.105, 254.6, and 550.105) and Arctic OCS conditions (Sec. Sec.  
250.105 and 550.105), the discussion of and response to comments on 
BOEM's final regulations (i.e., Sec. Sec.  550.105, 550.200, 550.204, 
550.206, and 550.220), and then the remainder of BSEE's final 
regulations (i.e., Sec. Sec.  250.105, 250.188, 250.198, 250.300, 
former 250.402/finalized as 250.720, 250.418, 250.447, 250.452, 
250.470, 250.471, 250.472, 250.473, and 250.1920; Sec. Sec.  254.6, 
254.55, 254.65, 254.70, 254.80, and 254.90).
1. General Comments
    Several comments addressed general concepts related to the 
rulemaking, instead of specific regulatory requirements proposed in the 
NPRM. These commenters opposed finalizing the proposed rule for a 
variety of reasons including: An opposition to all drilling in the 
Arctic Region; the proposed regulations are unnecessary, or overly 
restrictive or too costly; and

[[Page 46491]]

the request for the proposed rule to be withdrawn and re-proposed with 
additional information. BOEM and BSEE respond to these comments below.
The U.S. Government Should Ban All Offshore Drilling in the Arctic 
Region
    Many commenters opposed the proposed rule in its entirety because 
of their opposition to all drilling in the Arctic Region, based on 
concerns over climate change and other environmental reasons. Some of 
these commenters supported the development of renewable energy in lieu 
of continued exploration for oil and gas resources.
    BOEM and BSEE strongly agree with the need to protect the Arctic 
environment, and the requirements of this final rule are an important 
means to achieve that goal. However, the decision whether or not to 
prevent the exploration and development in the Arctic OCS is beyond the 
scope of this rulemaking. OCSLA establishes a process for deciding when 
and where to issue leases based on a defined set of criteria (see 43 
U.S.C. 1344). That is the appropriate process for deciding whether the 
Arctic OCS should be explored and developed, not this rulemaking.
    Advancing renewable energy and transitioning away from reliance on 
fossil fuels is critical in the long term, but fossil fuels will 
continue to be an important part of the U.S.' energy portfolio for the 
foreseeable future. The Department is required by OCSLA to make the OCS 
``available for expeditious and orderly development, subject to 
environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the 
maintenance of competition and other national needs.'' 43 U.S.C. 
1332(3). As discussed throughout this preamble, and in several studies 
and reports available in the docket, the development of the U.S. 
Arctic's significant resources has the potential to promote a greater 
national reliance on domestic energy resources, benefits for the U.S. 
economy, and enhanced global energy security. The protection of the 
Arctic marine and coastal environments where drilling activities take 
place is of the utmost importance to BOEM and BSEE. The requirements 
finalized in this rule ensure that current and future exploratory 
drilling activities on the Arctic OCS are conducted safely and 
responsibly, subject to strong operational requirements.
The Proposed Regulations Are Unnecessary or Overly Restrictive or Too 
Costly
    A large number of commenters argue the regulations should not be 
finalized because they are unnecessary due to other Federal agencies' 
existing regulations. Many of these commenters also assert that the 
regulations are overly restrictive and will be too costly. The comments 
do not provide specific costs or identify specific offending 
provisions, but only that the regulations should not be finalized.
    BOEM and BSEE disagree. The operating environment for exploratory 
drilling operations on the Arctic OCS is characterized by unique 
environmental conditions, geographic remoteness, and a relative lack of 
fixed infrastructure and existing operations. The provisions of this 
rule are necessary and appropriate to address those challenges.
    BOEM and BSEE engaged in Government-to-Government Tribal 
consultations and Government-to-ANCSA Corporations consultations to 
discuss the subject matter of the proposed rule and solicit input in 
the development of the final rule. Additionally, many comments on the 
NPRM support the finalization of this rule. This rulemaking takes into 
account the feedback we have received from these consultations and 
public comments and the lessons learned from recent exploratory 
drilling activity on the Arctic OCS. The provisions of this final rule 
do not add significant burdens beyond those that BOEM and BSEE required 
of Shell in 2012 and 2015, as part of the conditions of approval for 
its EP and permits to drill. From inception to completion, every phase 
of Arctic OCS operations comes with inherent challenges and operational 
risks. BOEM and BSEE determined that the final rule is reasonable and 
necessary to ensure that Arctic OCS exploration is conducted 
responsibly and in accordance with the highest safety and environmental 
standards. The final regulations are also necessary to provide 
regulatory certainty to industry regarding the requirements BOEM and 
BSEE will continue to expect operators to meet in their exploration and 
drilling programs. This final rule provides greater certainty to 
partners and stakeholders that Arctic OCS operations will be undertaken 
with the utmost regard for safety and environmental protection. The 
estimated costs and benefits of the rule are analyzed in greater detail 
in the final RIA and discussed in the E.O. 12866 section.
The Proposed Regulations Should Be Withdrawn and Re-Proposed With 
Additional Information
    Many commenters request the proposed rule be withdrawn in its 
entirety. These commenters request withdrawal based on two different 
rationales.
    One group of commenters requested that BOEM and BSEE withdraw the 
proposed rule and re-propose a rule with provisions aligning with the 
recommendations from a study by the NPC, a Department of Energy Federal 
Advisory Committee, entitled, ``Arctic Potential: Realizing the Promise 
of U.S. Arctic Oil and Gas Resources'', (NPC Arctic Potential Study, 
March 27, 2015) (available at: http://www.npcarcticpotentialreport.org/
).
    We disagree with this suggestion. BOEM and BSEE participated in the 
development of the NPC Arctic Potential Study and used, where 
appropriate, knowledge gained from its development. It is our view that 
this final rule comprehensively addresses the challenges to prudent 
hydrocarbon exploration posed by the Arctic OCS's unique operating 
environment. BOEM and BSEE recognize the value of the NPC Arctic 
Potential Study as a study that considers the research and technology 
opportunities to enable prudent development of U.S. Arctic oil and gas 
resources. However, it is only one of the resources we considered in 
developing regulations that will ensure the safe and responsible 
development of petroleum resources on the Arctic OCS.
    The second group of commenters recommended that BOEM and BSEE delay 
the finalization of this final rule until the proposed Well Control 
Rule was finalized.
    BOEM and BSEE decided to finalize the Well Control Rule in advance 
of this rulemaking (see 81 FR 25888), although the publication of the 
final rule on Arctic OCS exploration in advance of the Well Control 
Rule would not have resulted in any conflicting provisions. Throughout 
both rulemaking processes, BOEM and BSEE ensured the final rule on 
Arctic OCS exploration and the Well Control Rule contained regulatory 
provisions that are consistent. The Well Control Rule applies across 
the entirety of the OCS, including in the Arctic OCS. Many of the 
provisions of the final rule on Arctic OCS exploration, however, go 
beyond the scope of the Well Control Rule, and respond to unique 
challenges posed by the Arctic OCS operating environment. Finalization 
of the final rule on Arctic OCS exploration, independent of the Well 
Control Rule, puts in place the needed systems and processes that 
reduce risk and provide rigorous safeguards for Alaska's North Slope 
coastal communities and sensitive U.S. Arctic marine environment.

[[Page 46492]]

2. Definitions
    BOEM and BSEE proposed to add new definitions in the proper 
alphabetical order for Arctic OCS and Arctic OCS conditions to existing 
Sec. Sec.  250.105 and 550.105. We received no comments on the proposed 
definition for Arctic OCS conditions and it is finalized as proposed.
    BSEE further proposed to add new definitions in the proper 
alphabetical order for Cap and flow system, Containment dome, District 
Manager, Source control and containment equipment (SCCE) and Capping 
stacks to existing Sec.  250.105. No comments were received to the 
proposed definitions at Sec.  250.105 of Cap and flow system, 
Containment dome, or District Manager and they are finalized as 
proposed. Comments were received on the proposed Sec.  250.105 
definitions of Arctic OCS, Source control and containment equipment 
(SCCE) and Capping Stacks. One commenter requested the final rule 
include a definition for MODU.
Arctic OCS
    Three commenters requested BOEM and BSEE refine the proposed 
definition of ``Arctic OCS'' in Sec. Sec.  250.105 and 550.105 to 
include more than the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea Planning areas. Two of 
these commenters suggested utilizing all OCS areas north of the Arctic 
Circle under U.S. jurisdiction as the ``Arctic OCS''.
    BOEM and BSEE disagree that the ``Arctic OCS'' should be redefined 
to include offshore areas beyond the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea 
Planning Areas. We determined that the final definition in this 
rulemaking should align with the areas of the Arctic OCS utilized in 
the DOI OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (June 2012, 
available at http://www.boem.gov/Five-Year-Program-2012-2017). The 
Arctic OCS definition is reflective of the conditions and challenges 
the rule is designed to address, and allows focus on Planning Areas 
with higher hydrocarbon potential. Any other details added to this 
definition would increase confusion over the scope and applicability of 
the rule.
SCCE
    One commenter stated the proposed definition of SCCE in Sec.  
250.105 excludes some of the primary intervention options, such as 
injection as a means to secure the well. The commenter recommended the 
definition for surface devices should include pumps and injection lines 
for dynamic kill and injection into well, and reference to subsea 
equipment should include jumpers, manifolds, and associated equipment 
to facilitate pumping into the well.
    BSEE disagrees and has chosen to include as SCCE equipment only the 
equipment necessary to regain control of a well when the primary 
systems fails and that is not used in everyday drilling operations. 
Standard equipment (such as the BOP) is specifically excluded from the 
definition as it is a requirement of safe drilling operations regulated 
in other provisions of BSEE's rules. The definition of SCCE is not 
intended to be exclusive or restrictive, nor is the requirement that 
operators possess and have the ability to promptly deploy such 
equipment intended to preclude the use of other intervention mechanisms 
not specifically mentioned.
Capping Stacks
    One commenter noted the proposed definition for capping stacks in 
Sec.  250.105 limits the use of pre-positioned capping stacks to subsea 
wellheads when surface BOPs are used. The commenter suggests that the 
definition should be expanded to allow pre-positioned capping stacks to 
be used below subsea BOPs when deemed technically and operationally 
appropriate, such as with a jack-up rig.
    BSEE agrees that pre-positioned capping stacks should be included 
in the definition. We therefore added the language ``including one that 
is pre-positioned'' to the definition for Capping Stack in Sec.  
250.105. BSEE will evaluate the use of a pre-positioned capping stack 
as a part of an operator's proposal on a case-by-case basis and approve 
their use below subsea BOPs when deemed technically and operationally 
appropriate, such as when an operator proposes to use a jack-up rig 
with surface trees.
MODU
    One commenter requested a definition of MODU be included in the 
final rule.
    BSEE disagrees. There is no one comprehensive definition of a MODU 
that can be utilized across parts 250, 254 and 550. MODUs include 
different types of vessels, including floating facilities or jack-up 
rigs, capable of engaging in well operations (e.g., drilling, well 
completion and workover activities) for the purpose of exploring for or 
developing subsea oil, gas, or sulfur resources or related activities. 
What is considered a MODU may vary based on the activity being 
regulated. These regulations address only MODUs used for exploratory 
drilling, which include floating drilling vessels and jack-up rigs.
3. Additional Regulations by BOEM
Definitions (Sec.  550.200)
    BOEM proposed to insert the acronym IOP--meaning Integrated 
Operations Plan--into the proper alphabetical location within existing 
Sec.  550.200, for purposes of the IOP provisions. No comments were 
received on this provision and it is finalized as proposed.

When must I submit my IOP for proposed Arctic exploratory drilling 
operations and what must the IOP include? (Sec.  550.204)

    BOEM proposed new Sec.  550.204. This section requires operators to 
develop and submit IOPs to BOEM at least 90 days in advance of filing 
their EPs. The purpose of the IOP is to describe, at a strategic or 
conceptual level, how exploratory drilling operations will be designed, 
executed, and managed as an integrated endeavor from start to finish. 
The IOP is intended to be a concept of operations that includes a 
description of pertinent aspects of an operator's proposed exploratory 
drilling activities and supporting operations and how the operator will 
design and conduct its program in a manner that accounts for the 
challenges presented by Arctic OCS conditions. Several comments were 
received on this section. To clearly address the commenters' concerns, 
we have organized our discussion of Sec.  550.204 in two separate 
topics: (i) Information requested for IOP completion, and (ii) 
appropriateness of IOP submission. BOEM has reviewed the comments and 
determined to finalize Sec.  550.204 as proposed for the reasons stated 
herein.

Information Requested for IOP Completion

    Many commenters generally criticized the IOP provision as being 
duplicative or redundant of existing requirements.
    BOEM disagrees. The IOP rules are neither redundant nor duplicative 
of existing requirements. The IOP is meant to be an overview of all 
phases of the operator's proposed operations in order to allow the 
Federal agencies an earlier review in the planning process than 
currently exists. Section 550.204 requires a description of the design 
and operation of the proposed exploratory drilling program that 
demonstrates the operator is accounting for Arctic OCS conditions. 
Using this description, Federal agencies will coordinate and reduce 
potential delays by identifying possible vulnerabilities early in the 
planning process related to safety and environmental protection. This 
proactive approach enables the operator

[[Page 46493]]

to address these issues more effectively in the EP. Though BOEM would 
review the IOP to ensure that the operator's submission includes each 
of the elements listed in Sec.  550.204, the IOP would not require 
approval by DOI or the other relevant agencies. Accordingly, the IOP is 
fundamentally distinct from the EP. First, the provisions of OCSLA that 
govern the EP do not apply to the IOP in that the EP requires an agency 
decision while the IOP is reviewed to ensure the submission is 
complete. Second, the operator's IOP will contain planning information 
with less specificity than that furnished with the EP.
    Given the important role played by contractors and the fact that 
many contractors hired to operate on the Alaska OCS do not have a long 
operating history in the region, effective contractor oversight by 
operators is critical, and sufficient oversight of each contractor can 
be a challenge. Section 550.204(f) requires operators to plan for how 
they will manage contractors to reduce operational risks and address 
the challenges associated with operations on the Arctic OCS. Further, 
Sec.  550.204(b) requires operators to plan to coordinate the work of a 
number of contractors to ensure that time pressure or other contractor 
complications do not undermine safe and environmentally responsible 
operations. This section requires a degree of advanced planning that 
should identify critical paths necessary for successful operations, 
ensure requisite resources are allocated, and mitigates risks through 
adequate forethought.
    Additionally, if an operator determines that information it will 
submit in an EP is redundant with that submitted in an IOP, Sec.  
550.201(c) provides the Regional Director discretion, on a case-by-case 
basis, to waive submission of required information or analyses when 
sufficient applicable information or analyses are readily available to 
BOEM. Paragraph (d) of Sec.  550.201 also allows for referencing other 
pre-existing information and data when submitting an EP if that 
information was previously submitted or is otherwise readily available 
to BOEM, thus allowing the IOP to simplify the EP preparation process.
    Another group of commenters asserted that information required to 
be included in the IOP will not always be available 90 days before the 
EP submission. One of the commenters explained that much of the 
operator's data is immature during this planning phase.
    BOEM acknowledges that the IOP will be submitted at a phase of the 
planning process when not all details of proposed operations will be in 
place, and that such details will necessarily be further developed 
through later stages of the process. While the operator will explain 
how exploratory activities will be integrated in its IOP, BOEM does not 
expect the IOP to exhibit the same level of detail that other documents 
(i.e. EP, APD, and OSRP) contain. For example, Sec.  550.204(f) 
requests the operator to list the work its contractors will perform, 
but does not require the operator to have selected a specific 
contractor at the time of IOP submission. By providing that the 
operator need not have finalized contractor selection, it is reasonable 
for the IOP to be completed, at a minimum, 90 days before the 
submission of the EP.
    The operator should already have the information required to 
complete an IOP 90 days prior to submitting an EP due to the advanced 
planning necessary for the operator to safely operate in Arctic 
conditions and minimize its effects on local communities. In addition, 
the operator must perform detailed engineering themselves or have a 
contractor do such work, well in advance of the open-water season. 
Further, if the operator does not have the general summary information 
for the IOP, then it is unlikely that the operator will be in a 
position to submit a completed EP 90 days later.
    Another of the commenters requested that BOEM provide notice to the 
State and local governments when it receives an IOP.
    Regarding this request, we note that in addition to posting the IOP 
online, Sec.  550.206(a)(2) requires the operator to submit eight 
copies to BOEM for public distribution. BOEM will share copies with 
State and local governments.
    Several commenters requested clarification on whether an operator 
is obligated to respond to requests for additional information (RFAI) 
from BOEM, BSEE, or the other agencies with access to the IOP. The 
commenters note that if operators are obligated to respond to such 
requests, associated review timings should be established to ensure 
operators receive feedback within 45 days of submission.
    The IOP will be circulated among the members in the E.O. 13580 
Alaska Energy Permitting IWG, whose membership and function are 
discussed in Section I.B, and other relevant agencies. Members of the 
working group and other agencies will dialogue with the operator about 
any aspects of the proposed operations that may create risks. This 
dialogue ensures the operator is aware of elements of its proposed 
operations requiring clarification or revision to obtain later 
regulatory approvals in a manner consistent with each agency's 
regulatory requirements. The IOP is an informational document that must 
be filed and should cover the identified elements, but does not require 
approval by DOI. If all elements of Sec.  550.204 are not addressed by 
the operator in its IOP, BOEM may request supplementation from the 
operator.
    BOEM does not agree that the regulations should be amended to add a 
45-day limit for when BOEM's feedback on the IOP should be sent to an 
operator after the operator has submitted its IOP. If the operator is 
unable to provide supplementation related to feedback given by BOEM 
before the end of the IOP review period, the operator would be able to 
furnish the material in its EP submittal. If, however, during an early 
point in the review period, BOEM finds that the operator's IOP is 
incomplete in such a way that it does not address all of the elements 
of Sec.  550.204, then it may request that the operator supplement the 
incomplete IOP submission.
    One commenter requested clarification of the need for ``sufficient 
information'' when submitting the IOP description of vessels utilized 
in the operator's proposed exploratory drilling program. The commenter 
understands this as the IOP requirement effectively establishing a 120 
day review period for proposed operations (90 days for the IOP and 30 
days for the EP). The commenter stated this mandatory IOP process will 
effectively delay EP submissions and ultimately frustrate future 
drilling efforts.
    BOEM disagrees with the assertion that the IOP will delay the EP 
process, or that the IOP is designed to effectively expand that 
process. The final rule is a combination of prescriptive and 
performance-based requirements developed after extensive outreach to 
stakeholders, operators, and government agencies. BOEM will review the 
IOP for completeness, and if the agency finds that aspects of the 
operator's plan do not meet the necessary information obligations of 
Sec.  550.204, then it will request the information be presented. The 
IOP is not subject to approval, and should not delay submission of the 
EP. Because the IOP is an overview that requires less detail than the 
EP, operators will be in a position to submit the IOP earlier in their 
planning process than the EP itself. As a result, the 90-day period 
will not delay the submittal of the EP.
    Three commenters commented on the frequency of IOP submissions. One 
commenter requested clarification on whether a single IOP could address

[[Page 46494]]

multiple EPs. Another commenter requested that BOEM consider a single 
IOP filed prior to an operator's first EP. The third commenter suggests 
the IOP be updated when an EP is updated.
    BOEM disagrees that an IOP will need to be updated whenever an EP 
is updated. An IOP is required for each exploratory drilling program 
planned by an operator. However, a single IOP may cover multiple EPs 
when sufficient geographic and operational overlap exists. The IOP 
serves its primary purpose before an EP is submitted, as it informs the 
early planning process prior to initial EP submission. Requiring the 
IOP to be updated after the EP's submission would not serve any 
practical purpose, because the EP serves as the main point of reference 
for both agencies and the operator after the EP is filed.
    One commenter recommended the IOP should mirror the International 
Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP)/International Petroleum 
Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) guidelines for 
oil spill risk assessments and management plans.\10\ BOEM disagrees 
with this comment. The IOGP/IPIECA guidelines far exceed the expected 
scope of the IOP. The IOP is a conceptual document that holistically 
addresses an operator's Arctic OCS drilling operations from start to 
finish, providing regulatory agencies a preview of an operator's 
approach to regulatory compliance and integrated planning. The IOP does 
provide information on advanced preparations and staging of oil spill 
response assets, necessary for both BOEM's environmental impact 
analysis and for BSEE's overall understanding of the operator's OSRP. 
BOEM does not believe that the final regulations require amendment in 
response to these comments.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers 
(IOGP) is an association, formed in 1974, whose members include 
public, private, and state-owned oil and gas companies and upstream 
service companies. The International Petroleum Industry 
Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), formed in 1974, is 
a global oil and gas association addressing environmental and social 
issues.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter requested that IOP provisions should require proposed 
mitigation measures to avoid conflicts with subsistence activities. 
BOEM does not think this is necessary, as BOEM has determined that 
existing requirements address this concern. Before an EP is approved, 
BOEM must comply with applicable statutory requirements to analyze the 
potential impacts of the proposed exploration activities. As part of 
the analyses, BOEM analyzes how mobilization, demobilization, and 
exploratory drilling could affect subsistence use, resource use, and 
harvest activities. Both BOEM and BSEE may require additional 
mitigation measures at the EP and APD stages, as necessary, to address 
appropriately potential interference with subsistence activities. For 
example, because subsistence hunters are concerned that the effects of 
offshore oil and gas exploration might displace migrating bowhead 
whales and other marine mammals (like beluga whales), the Bureaus will 
meet with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and its whaling captains 
to help document traditional knowledge pertaining to bowhead whales, 
including movement and behavior. Given the importance of subsistence 
activities and related socio-cultural activities to the Alaska Native 
communities, operators are encouraged to work directly with interested 
parties to help mitigate potential impacts to subsistence activities. 
In addition, BOEM will continue to fund and support studies to better 
understand the potential impacts from OCS operations on marine mammals 
and subsistence activities.
    One commenter asserted that the proposed rule failed to address 
public and private investment in on-shore infrastructure supporting oil 
spill response and protection of specific lands and resources. The 
commenter noted that the proposed rule neglected local community 
involvement in oil spill response capabilities, especially at Point 
Lay, the local community most likely to be impacted by the oil spill 
response activities. The commenter suggested that regulation be written 
to specifically require onshore infrastructure development at Point Lay 
and Cape Sabine, both former Distant Early Warning Line radar sites 
with existing, but unutilized infrastructure. The commenter shared his 
Kali traditional knowledge of local meteorological conditions with BOEM 
and BSEE personnel and has noted that weather conditions often times 
permit safe flight operations from Point Lay when they are suspended in 
Barrow and Wainwright.
    BOEM has determined that both existing regulations and regulations 
finalized in this rulemaking address the commenter's concern regarding 
community involvement. Section 550.202 mandates that operators plan and 
prepare to conduct their proposed activity safely in conformance with 
all applicable legal requirements and sound conservation practices in a 
manner which neither unreasonably interferes with other OCS uses nor 
causes undue or serious harm to the human, marine or coastal 
environment. Additionally, Sec.  550.204(j) requires the operator to 
include in its IOP a description of whether and to what extent a 
project will rely on local community workforce and spill cleanup 
response capacity. Regarding the request for specific onshore 
infrastructure investments, BOEM cannot in this rulemaking specify the 
location of such investments.
    Two commenters assert that introducing an IOP prior to the EP is 
impractical and unnecessary in terms of timing and objectives. One 
commenter recommended the submittal of the EP should continue to 
precede the IOP to allow timely exploration to occur while the IOP is 
being developed. The commenter argued there is a lack of efficiency in 
asking operators to prepare a complete IOP as a pre-requisite to 
engaging in meaningful project-related dialogue and that early 
engagement between operators and the Federal agencies would be more 
meaningful as an iterative pre-application process that feeds into the 
IOP. The second commenter proposes the removal of the IOP as a separate 
document and that the EP and APD processes are adapted and clarified to 
meet the intentions of the IOP requirement.
    BOEM disagrees and has determined to finalize the IOP provisions as 
proposed. The IOP requirement calls for information that is different 
from what is required to be provided in an EP or an APD. Information in 
an IOP contains a different level of detail and is required at a 
different point in the planning process. By requiring an IOP, the 
entire planning process should become more efficient by decreasing the 
likelihood of requests for additional information or plan modifications 
during the later stages that require approval. The early engagement 
facilitated by the IOP requirements of Sec.  550.204 should increase 
efficiency by improving communication between agencies and operators, 
improving early agency understanding of and operator preparedness for 
planning activities.

Appropriateness of IOP Submission

    Several commenters assert that the requirement to submit an IOP 90 
days before submitting an EP for Arctic exploratory drilling operations 
is inconsistent with the OCSLA requirements at 43 U.S.C. 1340(c), and 
the Department is improperly exceeding its jurisdiction by requiring 
submission of the IOP information. Two of the commenters also assert 
that the IOP would require reporting of information and data beyond 
DOI's scope of jurisdiction and is not based in any statutory authority 
granted by Congress.

[[Page 46495]]

    BOEM disagrees. The OCSLA requires the submission and approval of 
an EP, but does not specify or restrict what other information BOEM may 
require before the EP is submitted. The OCSLA provides the Secretary 
authority to require information described in the IOP. Section 1334(a) 
of Title 43 of the U.S.C. grants the Secretary authority to ``prescribe 
and amend such rules and regulations as [s]he determines to be 
necessary and proper in order to provide for the prevention of waste 
and conservation of the natural resources of the [OCS].'' Section 
1332(6) declares that: ``operations in the [OCS] should be conducted in 
a safe manner by well-trained personnel using technology, precautions, 
and techniques sufficient to prevent or minimize the likelihood of 
blowouts, loss of well control, fires, spillage, physical obstruction 
to other users of the waters or subsoil and seabed, or other 
occurrences which may cause damage to the environment or to property, 
or endanger life or health.'' \11\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ Id. at section 1332(6).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Section 1348 of Title 43 of the U.S.C. imposes a duty on lessees 
and operators to ``maintain all operations . . . in compliance with 
regulations intended to protect persons, property, and the environment 
on the [OCS].'' \12\ The ability of lessees to explore for oil and gas 
on the Arctic OCS in accordance with these statutory mandates depends 
on early, integrated planning. This planning necessarily implicates 
activities, such as the operation of vessels which are regulated by 
other Federal agencies but also inform and influence the Department's 
oversight functions. For example, while the Department does not 
directly regulate the operations of vessels carrying capping stacks to 
Arctic well-sites, ice-management vessels or vessels responsible for 
towing rigs, lessees cannot safely conduct exploratory drilling without 
properly planning for these activities. Such activities can result in 
damage to operational equipment critical to DOI-regulated drilling 
activities, which can in turn compromise, reduce, or force 
modifications to approved operational or safety capabilities and 
equipment. Similarly, they can give rise to changes to approved 
operational schedules, which in the Arctic are particularly critical in 
light of the limited open water season, the timing of recession and 
encroachment of sea ice at drill sites, marine mammal migrations, and 
subsistence hunting seasons, among other considerations.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ Id. at section 1348(b)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The EP and the IOP serve different purposes and are not governed by 
the same provisions of OCSLA. The EP is a statutorily mandated 
submission under 43 U.S.C. 1340(c), approval of which is required prior 
to exploration of any OCS lease. BOEM regulations set forth 
comprehensive and detailed requirements for the contents of an EP.\13\ 
BOEM carefully scrutinizes submitted EPs to ensure that they satisfy 
all applicable requirements, are consistent with lease terms and 
governing law, and would not cause serious harm or damage to life, 
property, any mineral, national security or defense, or the marine 
coastal or human environment.\14\ EPs also provide the basis for 
analyses and determinations required by other Federal laws, as well as 
subsequent BSEE review and approval of APDs. Upon satisfaction of all 
applicable requirements, BOEM approves an EP, often subject to 
conditions; the terms of that approval are binding and govern 
activities conducted pursuant to the EP.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ See 30 CFR 550.211 through 550.228.
    \14\ Id. at Sec. Sec.  550.202, 550.233.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The IOP is fundamentally distinct from the EP, and does not 
implicate the section of OCSLA that governs EPs, 43 U.S.C. 1340. The 
IOP will be required to be submitted to BOEM well in advance of the EP, 
at a time when the Department recognizes the operator might not possess 
the type of detailed and specific information that is required to 
obtain approval of an EP. It requires Arctic-focused conceptual 
planning information to encourage and facilitate the development of 
integrated operational strategies early in the planning process. While 
the IOP will be reviewed to ensure that the submission is complete, 
addressing each of the elements listed, the IOP is not subject to 
approval by any Federal agency and does not bind the operator's future 
activities. Rather, the IOP, unlike the EP, is designed to be a 
preliminary informational resource to facilitate relevant Federal 
agencies' early familiarity with, and opportunities for constructive 
feedback on, important concepts related to the design of an operator's 
planned exploration program in an integrated manner that accounts for 
the unique Arctic OCS conditions. This process has the potential to 
facilitate the later EP review, but it is fundamentally distinct from 
the EP itself.
    Agency regulations have long recognized the need to obtain through 
the planning process information about activities outside of the 
Department's direct regulatory jurisdiction but which are clearly 
relevant to approval of operations within our jurisdiction.\15\ OCSLA 
provides the Secretary with the authority to require information 
necessary to ensure that Arctic OCS operations are safe and 
environmentally responsible and to help facilitate early review by the 
Department and other agencies in advance of the EP. 43 U.S.C. 1334(a). 
The IOP requirement reflects a reasonable exercise of that authority.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ See, e.g., Sec.  550.224 (requiring description in EP of 
the support vessels, offshore vehicles, and aircrafts you will use 
to support your exploration activities, including maps of travel 
routes and methods for transportation of fluids, chemicals, and 
wastes); Sec.  550.257 (same for Development and Production Plans 
(DPPs) and Development Operations Coordination Documents (DOCDs)); 
Sec.  550.225 (requiring description in EP of onshore support 
facilities to be used to provide supply and service support for the 
proposed exploration activities); Sec.  550.258 (same for DPPs and 
DOCDs).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Section 1340(c) of OCSLA requires lessees to submit an EP for 
approval before they commence exploration pursuant to their lease, and 
it requires BOEM to take action on an EP within 30 days after 
submission.\16\ The 30-day time limit for reviewing an EP begins only 
after BOEM's Regional Supervisor deems the EP submitted.\17\ This 
statutorily mandated regulatory requirement is specific to EPs and does 
not affect the authority in OCSLA to require the preliminary 
informational submission of the IOP.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ 43 U.S.C. 1340(c).
    \17\ See 30 CFR 550.233.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter argued that industry should not have to incur the 
additional cost of an IOP considering the roughly 124 day drilling 
window in the Chukchi Sea, and that the 90 days could instead be spent 
by agencies to integrate their services for regulatory efficiency. The 
commenter asserted that agencies must start working together to 
streamline the regulatory process, to fund and support Arctic-centric 
science, and to support infrastructure development in this remote 
region of the country.
    We agree with the commenter's concern for agency integration and 
note the key purpose of the IOP is to facilitate interagency 
coordination on matters of mutual interest. The regulatory oversight of 
the Arctic OCS is shared by many agencies and the need for integration 
among them is recognized by the establishment of the E.O. 13580 Alaska 
Energy Permitting IWG. The E.O. 13580 Alaska Energy Permitting IWG 
consists of representatives from Federal agencies which include DOI, 
the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, Homeland 
Security, and the EPA. BOEM will circulate the IOP amongst the 
aforementioned agencies;

[[Page 46496]]

such circulation and familiarity will result in a more collaborative 
effort in regulating OCS oil and gas exploration. With respect to the 
commenter's concerns regarding timing, the requirement to submit the 
IOP should not impact the length of the available drilling season as 
the IOP may be submitted well in advance of the open-water season. With 
respect to costs, those issues are analyzed at greater length in the 
final RIA. However, we note here that the type of planning reflected in 
the IOP is essential for the successful execution of any Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling campaign, so the only costs associated with the 
requirement should be the limited costs of assembling those plans for 
submission.
How do I submit the IOP, EP, DPP, or DOCD? (Sec.  550.206)
    BOEM proposed to revise Sec.  550.206 to include information that 
explains how operators should submit their IOPs and allowing operators 
to request the nondisclosure of information in the IOP using 
established DOI processes. As is currently the case with EPs, 
Development and Production Plans (DPPs), and Development Operations 
Coordination Documents (DOCDs), operators requesting the nondisclosure 
of portions of an IOP should provide BOEM with two separate versions of 
the IOP; a public version from which potentially exempt information is 
redacted, and an agency version with such information present, but 
clearly marked as proprietary.
    Several comments were received on this section. BOEM has evaluated 
these comments and decided to finalize Sec.  550.206 as proposed. Two 
commenters requested that BOEM require planning information be 
submitted electronically to allow immediate availability for public 
access. This requirement would allow BOEM to immediately upload public-
information copies of EPs and IOPs without the intermediate step of 
reformatting the operator's submissions.
    We determined electronic submittal should remain optional. 
Currently, DOI allows electronic submittals of all or part of the EP 
and the final rule will allow electronic submission of all or a portion 
of the IOP. Whether the information is received electronically or in 
the form of a hardcopy, BOEM will post the appropriate information on 
http://www.boem.gov/alaska-region/. If documents are not received 
electronically, BOEM will take the necessary steps to convert the files 
to a format compatible for online viewing by the public.
    One commenter recommended that EP requirements be updated to 
require liaison with DOI as soon as the planning process starts, in 
order to coordinate forward planning and keep authorities abreast of 
the approach and milestones related to the EP. The commenter 
recommended the regulations be revised to require the EP scope be 
reviewed to ensure that it includes appropriate information 
requirements related to planning of integrated operations and how this 
will be achieved. The commenter goes on to recommend that these issues 
will be discussed as part of the overall EP development process, and 
that the APD scope be reviewed to ensure that it includes specific 
requirements for documentation of planned integrated operations, 
including finalized vessels, contractors and associated management 
systems. The commenter stated that by establishing such an approach, 
along the lines of approaches taken by the United Kingdom, Norway, 
Australia and others, the process for documenting selection and 
suitability of a rig would be simplified, enabling focus on other risk 
elements relating to how the unit will be utilized in integrated 
operations.
    BOEM has determined the commenter's recommendations are addressed 
in the finalized provisions at Sec.  550.204. Compliance with the 
provisions of Sec.  550.204, related to the submission of the IOP, 
allows for operators and DOI to coordinate early in the planning 
process, and allows early visibility and opportunities to address how 
an operator's activities will be conducted in an integrated manner.
    One commenter requested to receive a copy of all Arctic OCS 
applications and be provided with at least 30 days to review and 
comment on the applications.
    BOEM's existing regulations allow for the public to review and, as 
appropriate, allow for comment from State, municipal and tribal 
governments. As stated in the NPRM, BOEM intends to post public 
versions of IOPs to its Web site upon receipt. Once an EP or DPP is 
deemed submitted, it is posted on BOEM's Web site, http://www.boem.gov/alaska-region. Additionally, Sec.  550.232, What actions will BOEM take 
after the EP is deemed submitted?, allows the Governor of each affected 
State 21 calendar days to submit comments. During this time, BOEM will 
make the EP available for public review and comment. Section 550.267, 
What actions will BOEM take after the DPP or DOCD is deemed submitted?, 
provides that BOEM will make the DPP publicly available within 2 
business days of deeming it submitted and accept comments for 60 days 
after making it available to the public. BOEM has determined these 
efforts toward public engagement are adequate. BOEM also notes that, 
particularly with respect to EPs, additional time for public engagement 
is statutorily constrained.
    One commenter recommended that DOI conduct timely and meaningful 
consultation with Alaska Native tribes before approving an EP. BOEM 
agrees. Consistent with E.O. 13175 (Consultation and Coordination with 
Indian Tribal Governments) and Secretarial Order 3317, BOEM requests 
Government-to-Government consultation with Alaska Native tribes for 
which the exploration activities could have tribal implications. The 
Department is committed to fulfilling its tribal consultation 
obligations, whether directed by statute or administrative action such 
as E.O. 13175, or other applicable Secretarial orders or policies.
    One commenter requested clarification in the final regulations that 
evidence of equipment ownership or contracts with equipment providers 
is required only for an APD, but not required for approval of an EP or 
an OSRP. The commenter expressed concern with having to make commercial 
commitments to very expensive equipment contracts before getting 
confirmation from the Bureaus that the plans based on that equipment 
would be approved. The commenter stated there is sufficient time after 
EP and OSRP approval for the operator to procure equipment that 
conforms to the approved plan, and to provide evidence of such 
procurement at the APD stage.
    BOEM does not believe that the final regulations require amendment 
in response to this comment. Both existing regulations and this final 
rule require varying levels of information about operator safety and 
oversight management at progressive stages of the planning and approval 
process. This information would begin with general information and 
narrow down to increasing levels of detail with successive regulatory 
submittals, as the project proceeds from planning to implementation. 
For example, at the IOP stage, we recognize that operators may not have 
contracts for vessels finalized or precise dates of drilling so, 
accordingly, specific names of contractors are not necessary, but could 
be provided if available. At the EP stage, Sec.  550.220(c) requires, 
among other planning information, a preliminary general description of 
SCCE and relief rig capabilities needed for compliance with Sec. Sec.  
250.471 and 250.472. BOEM anticipates that the relief rig description 
may be general at the EP stage, but

[[Page 46497]]

detailed enough for BOEM to confirm that the operator has plans in 
place for how it would conduct its operations safely and in compliance 
with the regulations. Further, existing regulation Sec.  550.211(c) 
requires that a description of the drilling unit and associated 
equipment be provided in the EP along with a brief description of its 
safety and pollution prevention features, type of fuel, and an estimate 
of the maximum quantity of oils, fuels and lubricants. Existing 
regulation Sec.  550.224(a) also requires at a general level a 
description of crew boats, supply boats, anchor handling vessels, ice 
management vessels, aircraft, and other vessels. These longstanding 
requirements, as supplemented by this rule, lay out a clear picture of 
the type and level of detail required at different stages of the 
approval process that is both achievable and appropriate for the 
management of these operations.
If I propose activities in the Alaska OCS Region, what planning 
information must accompany the EP? (Sec.  550.220)
    BOEM proposed to revise several of the existing provisions at Sec.  
550.220 to ensure, through thorough advanced planning, that operators 
are capable of operating safely in the extreme and challenging 
conditions of the Arctic OCS. Revisions to the section include amending 
the existing ``Emergency Plans'' provision at Sec.  550.220(a) to add 
fire, explosion, personnel evacuation, and loss of well control to the 
events for which emergency plans are required, and to replace the terms 
``blowout'' with ``loss of well control'' and ``craft'' with ``vessel, 
offshore vehicle, or aircraft'' for clarification purposes. Finally, 
BOEM proposed creating a new Sec.  550.220(c), which would set forth 
additional information requirements for EPs that are proposing 
exploration activities on the Arctic OCS.
    Several comments were received on the provisions in this section. 
BOEM has reviewed the comments and determined to finalize Sec.  550.220 
as proposed for the reasons stated herein. One technical revision is 
finalized at Sec.  550.220(c)(6)(ii). As discussed above in Section 
IV.A, this revision is required to correctly align the provision with 
the relief rig planning requirements of Sec.  250.472. For a full 
discussion of the comment and our response, see the discussion of Sec.  
250.472 in Section IV.B.
    Two commenters recommend that the end of season date should be 
decided by the regulators and not by the operators, and also that the 
operator should only be allowed to drill into hydrocarbon zones with 
enough time to complete a relief well and remove oil before the freeze-
up date. One commenter expressed concern that the operator may 
overstate their relief well capabilities in order to maximize the 
length of their drilling season.
    BOEM agrees with the commenters. To clarify, the end of season 
dates that the operator proposes in its EP are anticipated dates. BOEM, 
in consultation with the NWS, will analyze past and present 
meteorological conditions, oceanic conditions, and sea ice 
concentration and movement to determine if the operator has provided an 
appropriate end of season date estimate to account for its own unique 
operational capabilities and limits. BOEM does this through the 
establishment of the trigger date, or estimated seasonal ice 
encroachment date, that sets a deadline on when the operator can drill 
or work on the surface casing, so that risks associated with late 
season drilling are addressed and response and cleanup activities can 
occur in a timely manner.
    Two commenters strongly supported the imposition of an end of 
season date for operators and request removal of the word 
``anticipated'' in Sec.  550.220(c)(6) to ensure that Arctic OCS 
operators provide a firm date for their end of seasonal operations to 
avoid increased risks associated with freeze-up. The commenters further 
recommended that the final rule provide the Bureaus authority to 
require operations to terminate before these dates if actual conditions 
during the drilling season indicate earlier likelihood of ice 
encroachment over the drill site. The commenters suggest these dates 
should undergo scientific review by the relevant agencies and should be 
based on at least ten years of historical ice and weather data.
    BOEM disagrees with removing the word ``anticipated'' from the 
provisions of Sec.  550.220(c)(6). There are two dates an operator must 
address in this provision when onsite operations will be complete and 
when drilling operations will terminate. These dates retain some 
flexibility at the EP stage, as they are based on a number of 
predictive factors related to the operator's capabilities to mitigate 
risk in operating on the Arctic OCS and to the prevailing 
meteorological and oceanic conditions that vary from year to year. Many 
of the provisions finalized in this rulemaking require the operator to 
provide BOEM and BSEE pertinent information that may require 
exploratory drilling operations to terminate at an earlier date than 
anticipated at the EP stage. For example, Sec.  250.188 requires the 
operator to report to BSEE information on various incidents, including 
sea ice movement that may affect operations or trigger ice management 
activities and any unexpected ``kicks'' or operational issues that 
could result in the loss of well control. We further note the 
anticipated end of season dates are reviewed through interagency and 
scientific review prior to an approval of an EP.
    Two commenters recommended adding to the final rule a provision 
requiring operators to develop, as part of the EP, a detailed written 
Oil Spill Prevention Program that includes a training program. One of 
the commenters suggest the prevention plan should address critical oil 
spill prevention programs such as blowout preventer testing, well 
control, corrosion monitoring and control programs, maintenance and 
testing of leak detection systems and alarms, and other prevention 
work.
    BOEM and BSEE disagree. Oil spill prevention is a common theme 
among BOEM and BSEE regulations with the end goal being to prevent 
serious harm or damage to life, property, any mineral, national 
security or defense, or the marine, coastal or human environment. As 
planning is an essential part of spill prevention, the finalized 
provisions at Sec.  550.220(a) mandate that the operator describe its 
emergency plans for responding to a variety of incidents, including a 
loss of well control, at the EP stage. Similar requirements at existing 
Sec.  550.213(g) require the operator to discuss its worst-case blowout 
scenario in the EP, including options for response, such as surface 
intervention and a relief well. Further, existing regulations at Sec.  
550.219 mandate that the operator submit an OSRP in accordance with 
BSEE requirements in part 254, including the training requirements set 
forth in Sec.  254.29. Accordingly, the Bureaus do not believe that the 
proposed revisions to Sec.  550.220 are necessary or appropriate.
    One commenter recommended deleting Sec.  550.220(a) as existing 
regulations require a description of plans in the event of a loss of 
well control, the loss or disablement of a drilling unit, and the loss 
or damage to support craft, and the proposed language requires 
information concerning emergency plans in the event of `fire, 
explosion, or personnel evacuation'. The commenter explains that this 
information is currently captured by Emergency Evacuation Plans drafted 
for each of its drilling units and submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard 
(USCG) pursuant to 33 CFR 146.210. The commenter requested

[[Page 46498]]

BOEM incorporate these documents by reference and not require the 
information to be submitted multiple times across agencies.
    BOEM disagrees. Drilling operations, especially in the Arctic OCS, 
are subject to operational risks and environmental challenges during 
every phase of the endeavor. For the most part, the text of Sec.  
550.220(a) remains unchanged from longstanding requirements. To the 
extent that operators have compiled the relevant information for other 
purposes, the burdens of providing them for the EP are minimal and may 
potentially be addressed through reference on a case by case basis.
    One commenter stated the information requested in Sec.  
550.220(c)(1) is unnecessary and repetitive, as existing Sec.  550.211 
already requires a detailed description of drilling activities and this 
same information is also requested as part of the IOP under Sec.  
550.204.
    BOEM disagrees that Sec.  550.220(c)(1) is unnecessary and 
repetitive, as existing Sec.  550.211 sets forth general requirements 
for what must be included with an operator's EP anywhere on the OCS. 
Because of the unique operating environment of the Arctic OCS, proposed 
activities in this region are subject to additional levels of scrutiny 
and specialized requirements. Section 550.220(c)(1) is addressed 
directly to that need, calling for descriptions of the suitability of 
proposed operations for Arctic OCS conditions, in contrast to the more 
generic requirements of Sec.  550.211. Additionally, as explained in 
previous responses to comments, the operator's plans furnished with the 
IOP are less detailed than the information later available and required 
for submission with the EP, providing an opportunity for elaboration 
based on new information as it comes available.
    One commenter is supportive of resource sharing with other 
operators, provided that appropriate terms and agreements can be made. 
However, the commenter asserted the requirement to share these 
proprietary private-party agreements under Sec.  550.220(c)(5) is not 
appropriate and opposes the attempt to regulate what resources will be 
shared and with whom. The commenter asserted that involvement in any 
resource sharing agreements will not affect the operator's ability to 
meet the regulatory requirements regarding oil spills and emergency 
planning.
    BOEM disagrees with the commenter's characterization of the 
regulation and clarifies that Sec.  550.220(c)(5) is not an attempt to 
mandate resource sharing by regulation. Instead, this is a requirement 
to inform BOEM about any agreement the operator may have with a third 
party for sharing of assets or provisions for mutual aid in the event 
of an oil spill, as applicable, so regulators are aware of what 
response resources are available to an operator in the event of a loss 
of well control. This information is critical to ensure that the 
operator has made the necessary arrangements to respond appropriately 
in the event of a loss of well control incident. This information is 
also critical to confirm the operator's compliance with the relevant 
regulatory requirements related to well control equipment. To the 
extent that operators rely on such arrangements to satisfy their 
regulatory obligations, it is essential for the Bureaus to have access 
to the terms and conditions of those arrangements to confirm 
compliance. Additionally, the operator is required under this final 
rule at Sec.  250.470(f)(1) and (3) to demonstrate at the APD stage 
that its membership agreements with cooperatives, service providers or 
other contractors include 24-hour per day availability of SCCE or 
related supplies while it is drilling or working below the surface 
casing. The operator is also required to describe its or its 
contractor's ability to access or deploy all necessary SCCE in 
accordance with Sec.  250.471 and the SCCE listed in its EP. It is the 
operator's responsibility to ensure that reliance on resource sharing 
arrangements does not compromise its ability to fully and promptly 
respond to an event, and the required information is important to the 
bureaus' ability to ensure that this is addressed. We note that 
proprietary information is protected in accordance with existing 
Sec. Sec.  250.197 and 550.197, Data and information to be made 
available to the public or for limited inspection.
    One commenter asserted that the anticipated end of season dates as 
described in Sec.  550.220(c)(6) should not be driven by a specific 
calendar date, but by the application of performance-based principles 
including the ability of the operator's equipment, procedures, and 
expertise to effectively manage and mitigate risks that are reasonably 
likely to occur.
    BOEM notes that the end of season dates discussed in the final rule 
at Sec.  550.220(c)(6) are developed largely based on the capability of 
the operator's equipment and procedures to manage and mitigate risks 
associated with Arctic OCS conditions. Any date established depends on 
a number of factors, including a trigger date set by the Bureaus based 
on an evaluation of earliest sea ice encroachment, the latest ice and 
weather forecasts, the prevailing meteorological and oceanic 
conditions, and the timeframe in which an operator could drill a relief 
well. The specific calendar date is calculated using a performance-
based metric, allowing for the operator to apply its capabilities and 
expertise in reaching a specific date, as approved by the Bureaus.
    One commenter recommended deleting the entirety of Sec.  
550.220(a), (c)(3), and (c)(4) and replacing them with more 
performance-based requirements. Specifically, the commenter suggests 
that the EP be required to contain general planning information on 
source control and containment capabilities, including anticipated 
location and mobilization/demobilization times of equipment to mitigate 
risk from a loss of well control incident.
    BOEM disagrees and is finalizing these sections as proposed. One of 
the main goals of this rulemaking is to help ensure, through advanced 
planning, that operators are capable of operating safely in the extreme 
and challenging Arctic OCS conditions. This rulemaking amends existing 
Sec.  550.220(a) to add fire, explosion, and personnel evacuation to 
the events for which emergency plans are required and to replace the 
terms ``blowout'' with ``loss of well control'' and ``craft'' with 
``vessel, offshore vehicle, or aircraft'' for clarification purposes. 
Paragraph (a) of Sec.  550.220 otherwise remains unchanged from its 
longstanding form, and keeps the development of emergency plans largely 
within the performance-based control of the operator. Paragraphs (c)(3) 
and (4) of Sec.  550.220 simply require the operator to provide a 
general description in its EP of how it plans to satisfy the separate 
operational requirements imposed by BSEE at Sec. Sec.  250.471 and 
250.472. While the operator has flexibility in determining how it will 
comply with those requirements, making the required EP description of 
the operator's compliance plans more general or performance-based would 
be unnecessary and inappropriate, and would not satisfy the Bureaus' 
need to ensure appropriate planning for compliance with the 
regulations.
    One commenter requested that the requirement to provide some data 
for the APD be accelerated to the EP, including more information to 
account for operations in Arctic OCS conditions; more detail on 
emergency and critical operation curtailment plans; a detailed 
description of how the drilling rig, relief well rig, SCCE, support 
vessels and other associated support equipment and activities will be 
designed and conducted in a manner that accounts for Arctic OCS 
conditions; and information regarding operators' capabilities for

[[Page 46499]]

preventing, controlling and/or containing a WCD. The commenter also 
recommended the IOP be included in the EP application as an appendix 
and be subject to public review and comment.
    Both existing regulations and the regulations finalized in this 
rulemaking require varying levels of information at progressive stages 
of the planning and approval process. Furthermore, this final rule 
contains a combination of prescriptive and performance-based 
requirements that address a number of important issues. The required 
submissions begin with general information and are followed by more 
specificity with successive regulatory submittals, as the project 
proceeds from planning to implementation. The IOP is an overarching, 
high-level description of the integration of the exploration activities 
that provides an advanced summary of all phases of the proposed 
operations for the relevant Federal agencies to review and is designed 
to enable Federal agencies to identify possible vulnerabilities early 
in planning, and to facilitate interagency communication and discussion 
about possible permitting issues before submission of the EP. At the 
IOP stage, operators may not have contracts for vessels finalized or 
precise dates of drilling, accordingly, specific names of contractors 
are not necessary, but could be provided. At the EP stage the operator 
must provide a general description of its SCCE capabilities and relief 
rig plans, in accordance with Sec.  550.220(c), conforming to 
Sec. Sec.  250.471 and 250.472. BOEM anticipates that the relief rig 
description may still be general at the EP stage, but will be detailed 
enough for BOEM to confirm that the operator has plans in place for how 
it will conduct operations safely in compliance with the regulations. 
Existing Sec.  550.213(g) also requires that an EP include a blowout 
scenario addressing matters including surface intervention and relief 
well capabilities. Section 550.220(c)(1) requires the EP to provide a 
description of how an operator will design and conduct the proposed 
activities in a manner that accounts for Arctic OCS conditions; 
including a description of how the operator will manage and oversee 
those activities as an integrated endeavor. Additionally, Sec.  
550.220(a) requires that the operator submit a description of emergency 
plans describing the operator's ability to respond to a fire, 
explosion, personnel evacuation, or loss of well control, as well as a 
loss or disablement of a drilling unit, and loss of or damage to a 
support vessel, offshore vehicle, or aircraft with the EP. These new 
and existing provisions provide for the appropriate level of detail 
regarding an operator's plans at successive stages of the approval 
process. In response to the comment recommending that the IOP be 
included as an appendix to the EP application, BOEM will have received 
the operator's IOP at a minimum of 90 days before the EP submittal; 
therefore it is optional for the operator to include the IOP as an 
appendix in the EP. In response to the commenter's recommendation of 
having the public review and comment on the IOP, BOEM will post public 
versions of the operator's IOP to its Web site when received.
    One commenter suggested requiring that drilling rigs not previously 
used in frontier areas, such as the Arctic OCS, undergo a mandatory 
third-party review of the unit's design and that such review be 
submitted as part of the EP application.
    BOEM does not believe that the final regulations require amendment 
in response to this comment. The information provided with the 
operator's EP is general by necessity; more detailed information 
becomes available as the operator progresses through the planning 
process. In accordance with existing Sec.  550.211(c), the EP must 
include a description of the drilling unit. Later in the planning 
process at the APD stage, under finalized Sec.  250.470, BSEE requires 
the operator to submit specific information on the drilling unit. This 
includes information required in finalized paragraphs (a)(2) and (g) of 
Sec.  250.470, such as detailed descriptions of how the drilling unit 
will be prepared for service on the Arctic OCS and how the operator 
will comply with the requirements of API RP 2N, Recommended Practice 
for Planning, Designing, and Constructing Structures and Pipelines for 
Arctic Conditions, Third Edition. The finalized requirements at Sec.  
250.473(a) mandate that all operators operating on the Arctic OCS use 
only equipment or materials that are rated or de-rated for service 
conditions that can be reasonably expected during operations.
    Additionally, the operator's SEMS and the accompanying audit 
performed by a third-party must address the mechanical integrity of 
critical equipment. The revised requirements at Sec.  250.1920(b)(5) 
will require Arctic OCS operators to increase their SEMS auditing 
frequency from every three years after the initial audit to every year 
in which drilling in the Arctic is conducted. Existing Sec.  250.1920 
requires that a third party Audit Service Provider accredited by a 
BSEE-approved accreditation body perform the audit. Accordingly, the 
proposed revisions are not necessary.
    Two commenters recommend expanding the EP to address additional 
information including: Evidence that the operator consulted with marine 
mammal co-management organizations; a description of steps the operator 
will take to mitigate subsistence impacts, the establishment of 
appropriate start and stop timing for operations to minimize any 
potential conflict with subsistence activities, and an approved 
Conflict Avoidance Agreement (CAA) between the operator and the Alaska 
Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC). One of the commenters further 
recommended if a CAA is not included, then the EP should include an 
explanation as to the consultation process.
    BOEM appreciates the commenter's concern for mitigating subsistence 
impacts and does not believe that the final regulations require 
amendment in response to this comment. For example, Sec.  550.227 
requires the operator to, among other things, assess the potential 
impacts of its proposed exploration activities, describe resources, 
conditions, and activities that could be affected by exploration 
operations (including impacts to marine mammals and subsistence and 
harvest practices), and list the agencies and persons that it consulted 
with regarding potential impacts associated with proposed exploration 
activities. Section 550.204(i) requires a description of the operator's 
efforts to minimize impacts on local community infrastructure. BOEM 
will also analyze subsistence impacts through its NEPA analyses.
    With regard to the CAA processes, BOEM's Alaska OCS Region has 
regularly noted their positive value in public forums. The CAA is an 
agreement between AEWC and the operator and is considered a private 
agreement. As such, it is outside the scope of these regulations to 
require an operator to obtain a CAA from another entity. Although there 
is not a requirement for a CAA, discussion of resolutions during the 
consultation process and plans for continued consultation are required 
to be included in the EP. BOEM and BSEE continue to be committed to 
engaging on a routine basis with the AEWC. The AEWC leaders and members 
bring unmatched perspectives and insights into the relationships that 
BOEM and BSEE seek to maintain. With respect to the commenters 
suggestion that the operator be required to include evidence that the 
operator consulted with marine mammal co-management organizations, 
Sec.  550.222 addresses the commenters

[[Page 46500]]

concerns. Section 550.222 requires the operator to include in its EP a 
description of the measures it took, or will take, to satisfy 
conditions of lease stipulations related to its proposed exploration 
activities. Because a lease stipulation can be formulated in 
collaboration with a co-management organization at the lease sale 
stage, evidence of how the operator satisfied the conditions of the 
lease sale stipulation must be included in the EP.
4. Additional Regulations by BSEE

What incidents must I report to BSEE and when must I report them? 
(Sec.  250.188)

    The existing regulations at Sec.  250.188 require operators to 
provide oral and written notification to the BSEE District Manager (who 
in the Alaska OCS region is the Regional Supervisor) of, among other 
things, any injuries, fatalities, losses of well control, fires and 
explosions, and incidents affecting operations. BSEE proposed to add a 
new paragraph (c) to this section requiring operators on the Arctic OCS 
to provide an immediate oral report to the BSEE onsite inspector, if 
one is present, or to the Regional Supervisor, of any sea ice movement 
or condition that has the potential to affect operations or trigger ice 
management activities, as well as to report the start and termination 
of these activities, and any ``kicks'' or operational issues that are 
unexpected and could result in the loss of well control. The new 
provision would likewise require a written report of ice management 
activities within 24 hours of their completion.
    Several comments were received on this section. BSEE has evaluated 
these comments and decided to finalize Sec.  250.188(c) as proposed. We 
have separated comments received on this section into two topics: (i) 
Comments on ice management reporting, and (ii) comments on reporting of 
kicks or operational issues that are unexpected and could result in the 
loss of well control.
Ice Management Reporting
    Two commenters assert that the ice management reporting 
requirements are too subjective and vague, and that the reporting 
should be limited to ice incursion incidents that affect operations or 
trigger ice management activities as stated in the ice management plan. 
One of these commenters further asserted that the requirement would 
necessitate nearly constant communication with BSEE regarding sea ice 
movement and conditions, and requested that BSEE allow 24 hours to 
report the incident so the operator is able to focus on a safe response 
to the incident before contacting the regulator.
    BSEE disagrees with these comments. The ice management reporting 
requirements of this provision require operators to remain in close 
communication with BSEE about sea ice conditions that have the 
potential to affect operations before they reach the point of 
triggering ice management activities as stated in the ice management 
plan. This requirement does not necessitate constant communication, as 
the reporting requirements are limited to sea ice movements or 
conditions that have the potential to affect operations or trigger ice 
management activities. Just as the operator needs to have sufficient 
time to plan and act in the event that ice poses an operational hazard, 
BSEE would need sufficient time to oversee the safety of an operator's 
reactions and prepare to respond, if a response is necessary, due to a 
safety or environmental incident resulting from an ice event. BSEE does 
not agree that the identified standard is vague or ambiguous, and is 
confident, including based upon recent experience in 2012 and 2015, 
that Arctic OCS operators will be able to implement the provision in 
practice, and in coordination with the BSEE inspector or Regional 
Supervisor.
    The requirement to notify the BSEE inspector on location or the 
Regional Supervisor of sea ice movement or conditions that have the 
potential to affect an operation or trigger ice management activities 
is important and appropriate. BSEE agrees with the commenter's 
statement that the operator should focus on a safe response to an 
active incident, but we disagree with the commenter's request to allow 
24 hours to report an incident. The requirement for an immediate oral 
report is satisfied by notifying the onsite inspector or BSEE Regional 
Supervisor when an event or potential event is recognized. Requiring an 
immediate oral report is reasonable and likely will not burden the 
operator. This requirement will ensure that BSEE is informed of ice 
management concerns but will allow the operator to focus on executing 
safe ice management operations. Consistent with the prioritization of 
safe ice management operations, the regulation allows 24 hours for the 
written report to be completed.
    One commenter questioned the suitability of Sec.  250.190, 
Reporting requirements for incidents requiring written notification, 
for use with the ice management reporting required by proposed Sec.  
250.188(c)(2), particularly in the case where there is no damage or 
injury. BSEE determined the information requested in Sec.  250.190 is 
generally appropriate for these purposes, as all the information 
required may be relevant to reporting ice management activities in 
certain circumstances. The person completing the report has the option 
to state that specific information is not applicable (e.g., no damage 
or injury occurred).
    Two commenters suggested the ice monitoring requirement should be 
implemented to focus on the operators specifying reporting requirements 
in advance, based on the risks of a particular location, and these 
risks should be included in the ice management plan.
    BSEE agrees in part. The operator is responsible for addressing the 
particular ice event, based on the ice management plan submitted to 
BOEM under Sec.  550.220(c)(2). The operator's ice management plan 
should address how the operator will respond to and manage ice hazards, 
its ice alert procedures, and the procedures and thresholds for 
activating the ice management system. This ice management plan is 
required as part of the EP, which BOEM reviews to ensure the plan 
addresses all of BOEM's requirements. However, BSEE also believes that 
it is necessary and appropriate to establish baseline reporting 
requirements, not subject to individual operator plan specifications, 
to enable the agency to perform its necessary oversight functions, and 
therefore that no revision to the rule is needed in response to the 
comment.
    One commenter proposes revising Sec.  250.188(c)(1)(i) by deleting 
the requirement to report any sea ice movement or condition that has 
the potential to trigger ice management activities. The commenter 
suggests that compliance with these requirements would be achieved by 
including BSEE on the notification list used when an ice alert code is 
changed. BSEE does not agree that Sec.  250.188(c)(1)(i) needs to be 
revised. The language of that provision makes it clear when the 
operator needs to notify BSEE. The commenter's suggested revision would 
change the mandatory reporting requirement to a provision allowing the 
operator to define its notification obligations through its ice 
management plan. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the operator 
to determine how to comply with its notification obligations, including 
through use of its ice alert system.
Kick Reporting
    Two commenters objected to the requirement to notify BSEE 
immediately

[[Page 46501]]

of a kick or an unexpected operational issue that could result in a 
loss of well control, as the operator should only focus on making 
conditions safe at the well site and this provision would take the 
operator's focus away from securing the well. One of the commenters 
recommended BSEE could be notified as soon as reasonably possible 
instead of immediately.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter's statement that the operator should 
focus on a safe response to an active well control incident. The 
immediate reporting requirement is not intended to undermine safety, 
and safe operations always take precedence over satisfying reporting 
requirements. As discussed above in a similar comment to reporting any 
sea ice movement or condition that has the potential to affect 
operations or trigger ice management activities, the requirements 
finalized in this rulemaking allow 24 hours for the written report to 
be completed. It is appropriate to immediately provide an oral 
notification to the onsite inspector or Regional Supervisor as soon as 
an event or potential event is recognized. Accordingly, BSEE disagrees 
that this provision should be removed or revised. With the BSEE 
inspector on the rig during Alaska OCS exploratory drilling operations, 
an immediate oral report to that inspector is not only reasonable, but 
would not burden the operator. The provision also allows for 
notification to the Regional Supervisor if no inspector is onsite. Such 
notification is important to BSEE's fulfillment of its mandate to 
oversee operations to ensure safety and environmental protection.
    One commenter asserted that the kick reporting requirement is more 
appropriate for inclusion in the Well Control final rule because there 
is no Arctic-specific reason to report kicks immediately.
    BSEE evaluated this comment and determined it is appropriate to 
implement Arctic OCS specific requirements for kick reporting. As 
discussed in this preamble, the challenges to conducting operations and 
responding to emergencies in the extreme and variable environmental and 
weather conditions in the Arctic are demanding and distinct from those 
present in other OCS regions. Exploratory operations from MODUs on the 
Arctic OCS are conducted in sub-freezing temperatures, significant fog 
cover in the summer, strong winds and currents, storms that produce 
freezing spray and dangerous sea states, snow, and significant ice 
cover. Because of these conditions, the challenges of responding to 
kicks, and any resulting loss of well control, on the Arctic OCS are 
sufficiently distinct to justify distinct treatment. The Well Control 
Rule has national application and is therefore not the appropriate 
regulatory vehicle to address Arctic-specific concerns.
    Three commenters request clarification that it is not BSEE's intent 
to direct well control activities beginning with any unexpected kick. 
The commenters assert that premature regulator intervention would 
increase confusion and any existing risks pertaining to the status of 
the well under such circumstances. Commenters also assert that 
including kick occurrence information with the daily and weekly well 
activity reports provides BSEE with the information it needs related to 
kick occurrence.
    BSEE does not intend to direct well control activities and 
acknowledges that the operator is responsible for any immediate 
response to ensure the safety of the crew and facility. The 
notification requirements are within BSEE's authority to monitor and 
review any actions that may lead to a loss of well control. As 
described previously, safe operations are the primary concern. This 
requirement does not state, nor is there an implication, that the 
regulator will intervene in operations. However, proper response 
involves providing the regulator with timely and accurate information, 
so that it is actively aware of threats to well control. Merely 
including this information in well activity reports does not provide 
BSEE the information in a suitable timeframe.
    One commenter requested that BSEE clarify what kicks are considered 
``unexpected'' and could result in loss of well control. The commenter 
suggests that BSEE should provide reporting thresholds (e.g., kick 
size) to assist operators in complying with this provision.
    BSEE disagrees. The kick reporting requirement deliberately does 
not provide for the commenter's suggested reporting threshold. To the 
first part of the commenter's request, ``unexpected'' is intended to 
have its ordinary, typical definition, and an ``unexpected'' kick is 
one that is not anticipated in the course of normal operations and that 
could result in loss of well control. As with the ice management 
reporting requirements discussed above, BSEE determined not to 
prescriptively limit the reporting requirement to certain threshold 
triggers because it is essential for operators to remain in close 
communication with BSEE about any operational issues that are 
unexpected and could result in a loss of well control. Just as the 
operator needs to have sufficient time to act in the event of an 
incident that poses an operational hazard, BSEE would need sufficient 
time to oversee the safety of an operator's reactions and prepare to 
respond if a response is necessary due to a safety or environmental 
incident.
    One commenter asked whether contractors or individuals are required 
to ascertain if the operator made the required reports, and to report 
independently if they have not.
    As a general matter, BSEE looks to the designated operator to make 
filings and reports on behalf of all lessees and owners of operating 
rights. Because existing Sec.  250.146(c) states that when a regulation 
requires that a lessee take an action, the person actually performing 
the activity is also responsible for complying with that requirement, 
it follows that the lessees' reporting duties could extend to a 
contractor to the extent that contractor actually performs the 
activity.
Documents Incorporated by Reference (Sec.  250.198)
    The existing regulations at Sec.  250.198 identify what documents 
BSEE has incorporated by reference. BSEE proposed to add paragraph 
(h)(95) to existing Sec.  250.198 to incorporate by reference the API 
RP 2N, Recommended Practice for Planning, Designing, and Constructing 
Structures and Pipelines for Arctic Conditions, Third Edition. This 
document is a voluntary consensus standard addressing the unique Arctic 
OCS conditions that affect the planning, design, and construction of 
systems used in Arctic and sub-Arctic environments. This API document--
which is virtually identical to a standard previously issued by the 
International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ``Petroleum and 
Natural Gas Industries Arctic Offshore Structures,'' First Edition 
(2010) (ISO 19906)--would be appropriate for certain aspects of 
drilling operations, such as accounting for the severe weather and 
thermal effects on structures, maintenance procedures, and safety. 
Since this final rule is focused on the exploratory drilling phase of 
operations on the Arctic OCS, certain portions of API RP 2N, Third 
edition (such as those related to issues regarding structural and 
pipeline integrity) would not be relevant. However, many elements of 
API RP 2N, Third edition could be effectively applied to equipment used 
in exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS.
    Several comments were received on this section. BSEE evaluated 
these comments and decided to finalize Sec.  250.198 as proposed. 
Additional

[[Page 46502]]

comments specific to the requirement to comply with applicable 
provisions of API RP 2N Third edition, are discussed in responses to 
comments on paragraph (g) of Sec.  250.470, What additional information 
must I submit with my APD for Arctic OCS exploratory drilling 
operations?.
    Several commenters oppose incorporating API RP 2N Third edition 
because, at the time of publication of the NPRM, API RP 2N Third 
edition was in draft form. Therefore, they assert that the final 
version should not be incorporated in the final rule. One of the 
commenters requested an additional 30-day public review and comment 
period for the final API RP 2N Third edition. Additionally, several 
commenters suggested that ISO 19906 should be incorporated by 
reference.
    BSEE disagrees. Since the effect of incorporating a document by 
reference is no different than printing the requirement directly in the 
Federal Register (see 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1), the same principles that 
normally apply to the relationship between proposed and final rules 
would apply to the relationship between proposals to incorporate a 
document by reference and the final incorporation by reference of a 
document. Accordingly, the Federal Register contemplated that an agency 
may propose one standard for incorporation and finalize a rule with a 
different standard based on changed circumstances or public comments 
(79 FR 66267, 66268 (November 7, 2014)).
    The relevant question is whether the NPRM's discussion of draft API 
RP 2N Third Edition gave adequate notice of the requirements that the 
Department is now finalizing. The test for adequate notice is whether 
the final rule is a logical outgrowth of the proposed rule.\18\ 
Incorporation of the final version of API RP 2N Third Edition is a 
logical outgrowth of the proposal to incorporate the draft version of 
the same standard. The final version of API RP 2N Third Edition is 
largely identical to the version referenced at the time of the proposed 
rule. The principal change from the draft to the final was the removal 
of two paragraphs from Section 7.2.2.4 of the final version of API RP 
2N Third Edition. This deletion does not meaningfully alter the 
substance of API RP 2N Third Edition in a manner not logically related 
to or reasonably foreseeable from the proposed incorporation. The final 
version allows that that the relevant probability levels associated 
with abnormal-level ice events are not specifically mandatory as was 
proposed, but are instead recommended. The effect of this change should 
be small since, whether the language in the standard is mandatory or 
hortatory, the regulation--like the proposed rule--requires operators 
to describe in their APD how they will utilize the best practices of 
API RP 2N Third Edition. Moreover, the preamble discussed the 
possibility of finalizing a rule incorporating ISO 19906, which was 
characterized in the preamble as ``virtually identical'' to the draft 
version of API RP 2N Third Edition (80 FR 9916, 9938 (Feb. 24, 2015)). 
This discussion put the public on notice that the document incorporated 
in the final rule may not be actually identical to the draft version of 
API RP 2N Third Edition. The final version of API RP 2N Third Edition 
incorporated into this rule remains largely identical to the ISO 19906 
standard recommended for incorporation by the commenter.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \18\ See Long Island Care at Home, Ltd., v. Coke, 551 U.S. 158 
(2007).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter asserted that BSEE should not incorporate ISO 19906 
through the rulemaking because it does not apply specifically to MODUs.
    BSEE disagrees. Although we are incorporating by reference the 
applicable provisions of API RP 2N Third Edition, rather than ISO 
19906, the rationale is identical. While the commenter is correct that 
ISO 19906 (or API RP 2N Third Edition) does not apply specifically to 
MODUs, the procedures relating to ice actions and ice management 
contained in the standards can be applied to such units. The rule does 
not purport to incorporate and apply to MODUs every aspect of these 
standards, but rather requires the operator to describe how it will 
utilize the relevant best practices and specifically identifies 
portions that are not applicable.
    Two commenters oppose the incorporation by reference of API RP 2N 
Third Edition because its incorporation by reference into BSEE 
regulations conflicts with API's intent that RPs should not be applied 
inflexibly and should not replace sound engineering judgment. BSEE 
disagrees that there is a conflict between the finalized incorporation 
by reference provisions of this rule and the intent of RPs. As stated 
in finalized Sec.  250.470(g), an operator must comply with the 
incorporated provisions of API RP 2N Third Edition where it does not 
conflict with other Arctic OCS requirements under 30 CFR part 250, and 
must provide a detailed description of how the operator will utilize 
the best practices included in API RP 2N Third Edition. Accordingly, 
the flexibility of the application of RP 2N Third Edition is retained 
while providing for regulatory oversight of how the provisions will be 
tailored to each APD.
    Two commenters suggest lease operators and drilling contractors 
utilize applicable class rules from classification societies recognized 
by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) to 
determine what, if any, measures need to be taken from a vessel 
structure and equipment perspective based upon the area of operations 
and the seasonal conditions that are expected to be encountered. 
Another commenter also opposed the incorporation of API RP 2N Third 
Edition, or ISO equivalents, as an absolute requirement due to the 
variability of operations that may be conducted in the Arctic and the 
potential restrictions that could result from such a prescriptive 
requirement. The commenter recommended the rules focus on operators 
proving critical equipment fit for Arctic use based on the specific 
operating environment and assumptions for the given project.
    BSEE disagrees. We recognize that MODUs are designed for a specific 
set of criteria or are classed for a specific environment, water depth, 
and drilling capacity which, in combination, establishes the design 
limits of the MODU. Because MODUs are not traditionally designed and/or 
classed specifically for the environmental conditions found in the 
Arctic region, it is necessary, if MODUs are to be considered for 
exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS, to have in place criteria for 
the assessment of the site and the MODU for these uniquely challenging 
operating conditions. API RP 2N Third Edition is the current industry 
standard that, although not specifically applicable to MODUs, provides 
the criteria for site and MODU assessment because the procedures 
relating to ice actions and ice management contained in the standards 
can be applied to such units. Even if the MODU is reclassified or 
redesigned for Arctic conditions, operators will still need to perform 
an assessment for the specific environmental conditions during the 
planned window of operations of the MODU on the Arctic OCS in 
compliance with the final APD requirements of Sec.  250.470. Equipment 
on the MODU used to support the drilling operations should also be 
evaluated for suitability for Arctic conditions, but should be 
evaluated using the appropriate standards for equipment operating in 
the Arctic environment, not a structural design standard for the Arctic 
region. BSEE's existing regulation at Sec.  250.418(f) requires that 
operators include in their APD evidence that, in areas subject to 
subfreezing conditions

[[Page 46503]]

``the drilling equipment, BOP systems and components, diverter systems, 
and other associated equipment and materials are suitable for operating 
under such conditions'', while final Sec.  250.473(a) establishes a 
requirement for use of appropriately rated or de-rated equipment and 
materials. Operators may ensure that proposed materials and equipment 
are rated or de-rated appropriately by referencing manufacturer 
specifications and would not need to obtain equipment or material 
rating by an independent third-party rating entity.
    Two commenters recommended other international standards, such as 
the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Standard for Ships 
Operating in Polar Waters, 2010 Edition and the Arctic Council Arctic 
Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines, should be considered for incorporation 
by reference.
    For this final rule, BSEE has determined that the incorporation by 
reference of the applicable provisions of API RP 2N Third Edition 
codifies appropriate standards to regulate MODUs and jack-up rigs 
conducting exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS. BSEE will 
continue to review other standards to determine their applicability and 
the propriety of incorporating them, in addition to API RP 2N Third 
Edition, to support Arctic OCS exploration using MODUs.
    One commenter does not support the incorporation of ISO 19905-1 in 
the final rule. Another commenter noted BSEE should be aware of the 
limited applicability of ISO 19905-1 to the assessment of self-
elevating units, while ISO 19906 is intended to be used irrespective of 
structure type. The commenter points out that ISO 19905-1 relies on ISO 
19906 for the determination of ice actions which, in practice, means 
that ISO 19906 has to be used as well.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter and determined to incorporate by 
reference API RP 2N Third Edition. BSEE also agrees with the comment 
regarding the relationship between ISO 19905-1 and ISO 19906. BSEE 
recognizes that MODUs are designed for a specific set of criteria or 
are classed for a specific environment, water depth, and drilling 
capacity which, in combination, establishes the design limits of the 
MODU. API RP 2N Third Edition is the current industry standard that 
provides the criteria for site and MODU assessment. If industry 
develops additional standards or guidelines for the assessment of MODUs 
in the Arctic region, then BSEE may consider those during future 
rulemakings.
    Two commenters recommended that any standards incorporated by 
reference should be available online to the public free of charge. One 
of the commenters asserted that because the documents were not freely 
available during the public comment period, neither API RP 2N Third 
Edition nor ISO 19906 qualify as being ``reasonably available'' as 
discussed in the Federal Register's final rule, Incorporation by 
Reference (79 FR 66267, November 7, 2014).
    BSEE disagrees with the assertions of these commenters. The Federal 
Register requires that, for a proposed rule, the preamble must: (1) 
Discuss the ways that the materials it proposes to incorporate by 
reference are reasonably available to interested parties or how it 
worked to make those materials reasonably available to interested 
parties; and (2) Summarize the material it proposes to incorporate by 
reference. (1 CFR 51.5(a)). The proposed rule preamble met both 
requirements.
    First, it included a discussion of how interested parties could 
view a copy of the draft version of API RP 2N Third Edition, and it 
stated that once the standard was finalized by API it would continue to 
be available on API's Web site for free viewing or for purchase in 
electronic or hard copy. Specifically, the NPRM preamble stated: ``BSEE 
proposes to incorporate, with certain exclusions discussed later in 
this proposed rule, draft proposed API RP 2N, Third Edition, which is 
available for free public viewing during the API balloting process on 
API's Web site at: http://mycommittees.api.org/standards/ecs/sc2/default.aspx (click on the title of the document to open). When 
finalized by API, that standard will be available for free public 
viewing on API's Web site at: http://publications.api.org'', (80 FR 
9916, 9933 (Feb. 24, 2015)). (A footnote to this text explained that, 
to find the document on API's Web site, a user had to first create an 
account and accept the terms and conditions before it could browse 
through documents.) The commenters are incorrect to assert that the 
document was not available for free online either during the comment 
period for this rulemaking or after finalization of this rule or the 
API standard. Additionally, as is stated in the preamble of the 
proposed rule, the documents may be inspected, upon request, at the 
BSEE office in Sterling, Virginia (45600 Woodland Road, Sterling, VA 
20166 (phone: 703-787-1587) or at the National Archives and Records 
Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of materials 
at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to: www.archives.gov/federal-register/cfr/ibr-locations.html.
    Further, BSEE is permitted to incorporate by reference (IBR) 
copyrighted materials into its regulations, and the OFR has expressly 
concluded that an agency's IBR of copyrighted material does not result 
in the loss of that copyright.\19\ Implicit within that is the fact 
that access to certain incorporated standards is controlled principally 
by the third party copyright holder. While BSEE works diligently to 
maximize the accessibility of incorporated documents, and offers 
direction to where the materials are reasonably available, it also must 
ultimately respect the publisher's copyright. Accordingly, most issues 
related to how API administers access to its copyrighted materials--
including its decision to charge for them--are outside of BSEE's 
control.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ See 79 FR 66273 (Nov. 7, 2014) (``recent developments in 
Federal law . . . have not eliminated the availability of copyright 
protection for privately developed codes and standards referenced in 
or incorporated into federal regulations''); see also Veeck v. 
Southern Building Code Congress Int'l, Inc., 293 F.3d 791 (5th Cir. 
2002).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Federal Register's regulations state that, if a proposed rule 
does not meet the applicable IBR requirements, the Federal Register 
Director would return the proposed rule to the agency, 1 CFR 1.3. That 
did not occur here. There is no requirement that such documents be 
available either online or for free. See 79 FR 66269-72 (Nov. 7, 2014) 
(discussing the reasons that the Federal Register specifically declined 
to include such requirements in its regulations on IBR).
    Second, the preamble to the proposed rule also included a summary 
of the RP 2N Third Edition. Early on the preamble stated that the 
document ``would be appropriate for certain aspects of drilling 
operations, such as accounting for the severe weather and thermal 
effects on structures, maintenance procedures, and safety.'' (80 FR 
9932). Later, describing which parts of RP 2N would not apply, the 
preamble indicates different kinds of structures that are covered under 
RP 2N and are subject to BSEE's jurisdiction. Id. at 9938 (``For 
example, Class requirements do not cover the derrick, plumbing, pipes, 
tubing, and pumps that are all also structural components of a MODU and 
that fall under BSEE jurisdiction.'').
    Two commenters recommend the regulations include a complete and 
clearly organized summary of the API RP 2N Third Edition provisions 
being incorporated. One of the commenters asserted that the rule should 
include a technical evaluation explaining the criteria used to 
determine whether a

[[Page 46504]]

provision is incorporated by reference, and that before incorporating a 
document by reference into the regulations, BSEE should be required to 
show that it has reviewed the document and has determined that it meets 
the best available and safest technology and operating practices 
standard.
    BSEE disagrees. The preamble to the NPRM included a summary of API 
RP 2N Third Edition. The NPRM preamble stated that the document ``would 
be appropriate for certain aspects of drilling operations, such as 
accounting for the severe weather and thermal effects on structures, 
maintenance procedures, and safety'' (80 FR at 9932). It also described 
which parts of RP 2N Third Edition would not apply, and the preamble 
indicated which kinds of structures are covered under RP 2N Third 
Edition and subject to BSEE's jurisdiction. Id. at 9938 (``For example, 
Class requirements do not cover the derrick, plumbing, pipes, tubing, 
and pumps that are all also structural components of a MODU and that 
fall under BSEE jurisdiction.''). BSEE thoroughly evaluated API RP 2N 
Third Edition and described in Sec.  250.470(g) the manner in which it 
was being incorporated into the rules, including which aspects of the 
RP were expressly excluded from incorporation. BSEE disagrees that the 
other thresholds suggested by the commenter are necessary or 
appropriate prerequisites for incorporation of a standard by reference.

Pollution Prevention (Sec.  250.300)

    BSEE proposed to revise Sec.  250.300 pollution prevention 
regulations to address Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations by 
adding provisions in paragraphs (b)(1) and (2). These provisions would 
require that, during exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS, 
the operator must capture all petroleum-based mud, and associated 
cuttings from operations that use petroleum-based mud, to prevent their 
discharge into the marine environment. The provisions also state that 
the Regional Supervisor may require capture of all water-based mud, and 
associated cuttings, from operations after completion of the hole for 
the conductor casing to prevent its discharge into the marine 
environment based on certain conditions such as: Proximity of drilling 
operations to subsistence hunting and fishing locations; the extent to 
which discharged mud or cuttings may cause marine mammals to alter 
their migratory patterns in a manner that impedes subsistence users' 
access to, or use of, those resources, or increases the risk of injury 
to subsistence users; or the extent to which discharged mud or cuttings 
may adversely affect marine mammals, fish, or their habitat.
    Several comments were received on this section. BSEE has reviewed 
the comments and determined, with the exception of various technical 
edits, the substantive provisions of Sec.  250.188 are finalized as 
proposed.
    Many commenters assert that the pollution prevention requirements 
set forth in the revisions to Sec.  250.300 are unnecessary and 
redundant with existing authorities or exceed BOEM and BSEE's 
jurisdiction. Several commenters further assert that the provisions 
specifically duplicate or conflict with EPA regulations under the CWA, 
as implemented through National Pollution Discharge Elimination System 
(NPDES) general permits and strict monitoring requirements. One 
commenter suggests that BOEM and BSEE should defer to the National 
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine 
Fisheries Service (NMFS) and its Incidental Harassment Authorization 
program with respect to potential impacts on marine mammals and 
subsistence hunting activities.
    BSEE disagrees with the commenters. BSEE has the authority to 
implement the proposed changes to Sec.  250.300, and furthermore the 
pollution prevention provisions of this final rule do not conflict with 
the authority of other agencies, such as the EPA and NOAA, to regulate 
discharges into the marine environment from oil and gas operations on 
the OCS.
    Under OCSLA, BOEM and BSEE are jointly responsible for implementing 
environmental safeguards to ensure that oil and gas exploration and 
production activities on the OCS are conducted in a manner which 
minimizes damage to the environment and dangers to life or health, 
which provides for the conservation of the natural resources of the 
OCS, and which will not be unduly harmful to aquatic life in the area, 
result in pollution, create hazardous or unsafe conditions, or 
unreasonably interfere with other users of the area.\20\ BSEE is 
fulfilling this obligation by preventing petroleum-based drilling mud 
and associated cuttings from entering the Arctic environment and by 
clarifying BSEE's authority to limit the release of water-based mud and 
associated cuttings in appropriate contexts, such as when operations 
are near areas where marine mammals may be concentrated or near 
important subsistence hunting and fishing locations. The changes to 
Sec.  250.300 are fully within our authority under OCSLA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ See, e.g., 43 U.S.C. 1332(3), 1332(6), 1334(a), 1340(g), 
1348(b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    E.O. 12777 delegated the functions vested in the President by 
section 311(j)(1)(C) of the CWA to the Secretary, among others. These 
delegations establish a cooperative and complementary system for 
implementing the requirements of the CWA among the Secretary, EPA, 
NOAA, and others. The functions delegated to the Secretary authorize 
the Secretary to establish procedures, methods and equipment and other 
requirements for equipment to prevent and contain discharges of oil and 
hazardous substances from offshore facilities. The revised language of 
Sec.  250.300 is consistent with this authorization and does not 
conflict with any other delegation of authority. By requiring the 
capture of mud and cuttings associated with exploratory drilling 
operations on the Arctic OCS under the identified conditions, BSEE is 
establishing procedures, methods, equipment and requirements for 
equipment to prevent or contain the discharge of oil and hazardous 
substances from offshore facilities, as is contemplated by section 
311(j)(1)(C) of the CWA. Thus, the changes to Sec.  250.300 are fully 
within BSEE's authority under the CWA.
    The revisions do not conflict with the NPDES general permits issued 
by the EPA in November 2012. The NPDES permits authorize certain 
discharges from oil and gas exploratory facilities on the OCS in the 
Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea, including certain discharges of 
water-based drilling fluids and drill cuttings, subject to effluent 
limitations and other requirements. The permits do not allow the 
discharge of oil-based drilling fluids in any location or at any time 
or the discharge of water-based drilling fluids and drill cuttings 
during the fall bowhead whale hunt in the Beaufort Sea. The revisions 
to Sec.  250.300 are designed to complement, and do not conflict with, 
these permits. Further, as an agency statutorily responsible for 
minimizing environmental damage from oil and gas exploration activities 
on the OCS, BSEE has the authority to issue regulations that are more 
stringent than the NPDES permits issued by EPA. Nothing about the EPA's 
authority to regulate pursuant to the CWA detracts from the Secretary's 
delegated OPA authority under E.O. 12777 or direct authority under 
OCSLA.
    Finally, when writing the rule, BSEE consulted with the EPA, NOAA, 
and other Federal agencies about regulating discharges from operations 
on the OCS. In addition, once this rule is final, BSEE will continue 
its practice of

[[Page 46505]]

communicating with other agencies responsible for oversight of 
discharges related to oil and gas exploration drilling in the Arctic. 
This communication will help ensure that conflicts do not arise.
    Several commenters were generally supportive of the pollution 
prevention requirements, but request that the requirements mandate the 
capture of all water-based mud and cuttings. One of these commenters 
also asserted the operator should have the burden of demonstrating lack 
of harm associated with waste discharges, noting subsistence hunting 
concerns, because marine mammals traverse through areas where the 
regulated pollution may be discharged.
    BOEM and BSEE do not agree that all water-based mud and cuttings 
must be captured. This final rule implements the statutory mandate 
under OCSLA to promote oil and gas development while protecting the 
environment. The Bureaus have not seen sufficient evidence to suggest 
that water-based mud and associated cuttings are sufficiently 
problematic in all circumstances to justify a uniform capture 
requirement. Regarding the comment recommending the operator bear the 
burden of demonstrating a lack of harm to subsistence hunting, we 
determined that the final rule addresses the commenter's concern. For 
example, the requirements in Sec.  250.300(b)(1) and (2) clarify BSEE's 
authority to prevent discharges based on potential effects to 
subsistence hunting activities and environmental concerns related to 
the marine environment. In addition to OCSLA, BOEM must comply with 
mandates of other Federal laws (e.g., ESA). Further, DOI initiates 
Government-to-Government Consultations with federally recognized Tribes 
and Government-to-ANCSA-Corporation Consultation pursuant to 
Secretarial policy and direction.
    Additionally, during the EP review process BOEM conducts 
environmental review of the EP, which includes addressing subsistence-
harvest patterns, socio-cultural systems, and environmental justice. 
BOEM's environmental review describes the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative effects on the offshore and onshore environments expected to 
occur as a result of exploration activities. BOEM's Environmental 
Assessments (EA) describe the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects 
on the offshore and onshore environments expected to occur as a result 
of implementation of EPs. The analytical conclusions must clearly 
identify whether potential effects are significant, including through 
relevant information regarding environmental consequences obtained 
through consultation and review by interested parties. The EA must also 
identify the agencies and persons consulted with regard to potential 
effects associated with activities within an EP. Controversial issues 
and substantive opposing or conflicting views raised by Federal, State, 
or local agencies, Tribes, or the public regarding the level of 
environmental impact of the proposal will be addressed. Relevant 
approvals are also conditioned on compliance with protective 
restrictions and mitigations put in place by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (USFWS) and NMFS. Through these and other measures, the Bureaus 
are able to sufficiently analyze and mitigate impacts to marine mammals 
and subsistence activities, and no revision to this provision is 
necessary.
    One commenter suggests that any determination to allow the 
discharge of water-based drilling cuttings be made at the permitting 
stage to allow the operator adequate time for planning and installation 
of equipment and resources.
    BOEM and BSEE agree that pollution prevention requirements should 
be considered as early as possible. Any determination by the BSEE 
Regional Supervisor that the operator must capture all water-based mud 
from operations after completion of the hole for the conductor casing 
will be made as soon as feasible, on a case-by-case basis, to allow for 
consideration of newly discovered impacts and impacts that may result 
from permit modifications. NEPA analysis of proposed exploration 
activities will help inform BSEE's determination.
    Two commenters support the requirements to capture all petroleum-
based muds and associated cuttings. One commenter recommended the 
provisions contain a narrowly defined exception for technical 
infeasibility, with the burden of proof placed on the operator to 
demonstrate technical infeasibility in its EP.
    We disagree with the commenter's suggestion to allow an exception 
for technical infeasibility. We believe it is technically feasible, and 
a common industry practice today, to collect the petroleum based mud 
and cuttings and back haul them for disposal at an approved onshore 
disposal site. Existing regulations already provide for departures and 
use of alternate procedures under appropriate circumstances.
    Several commenters recommend the capture requirement be extended to 
all discharges. One of the commenters further recommended the 
prohibition of all discharges when technically feasible, with the 
burden of proof on the operator, and asserted that there would only be 
an incremental increase in costs offset by cost savings from avoided 
discharge monitoring, record keeping, reporting, and sampling for heavy 
metal contamination in marine sediment.
    Under existing Sec.  250.300(b)(1), BSEE already has the authority 
to restrict the rate of drilling fluid discharges or prescribe 
alternative methods if environmental or operational concerns are 
raised. Amendments to the section clarify the Regional Supervisor's 
authority to impose operational measures that complement EPA's 
discharge limitations by considering potential impacts to specific 
components of the Arctic environment, such as subsistence activities, 
marine resources, and coastal areas.
    The EPA has the authority to issue NPDES general permits for 
discharges under CWA section 301(a), 33 U.S.C. 1311(a), which generally 
prohibits the discharge of pollutants to the waters of the U.S. unless 
authorized by a NPDES permit. EPA typically issues NPDES general 
permits, rather than individual permits, for discharges from offshore 
oil and gas exploration facilities. The EPA uses the results of Ocean 
Discharge Criteria Evaluations (ODCE) and traditional knowledge when 
issuing general permits for oil and gas activities. For example, one of 
the criteria analyzed by EPA for ODCE is the potential impacts of 
discharges on human health through direct and indirect pathways. As 
subsistence hunting is directly related to human health, the EPA can 
require mitigation practices, such as environmental monitoring programs 
or restrictions on discharges during subsistence hunting seasons. The 
EPA addressed subsistence hunting concerns in its October 2012 
Environmental Justice Analysis for Support of NPDES General Permits for 
Oil and Gas Exploration facilities in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
    We note the requirements finalized at Sec.  250.300(b)(2) require 
the capture of all cuttings from Arctic OCS operations that utilize 
petroleum-based mud and, after consideration of various factors, the 
Regional Supervisor also has discretion to require the capture of 
cuttings from operations that utilize water-based mud. Additionally, 
under existing Sec.  550.202, BOEM ensures, among other things, that 
the operator conforms to sound conservation practices, does not 
interfere with other uses of the OCS, and does not cause harm to the 
human, marine, or coastal environment. Both existing regulations and 
the requirements finalized at

[[Page 46506]]

Sec.  250.300 provide for both mandatory limitations of discharges of 
petroleum-based substances and regulatory discretion to prohibit 
drilling discharges that may be harmful to the marine environment. 
These requirements complement EPA permitting and regulation of 
discharges related to OCS operations.
    One commenter disagrees with providing the Regional Supervisor 
discretion to prohibit both water- and petroleum-based mud and cuttings 
based on environmental factors, including migratory patterns and 
adverse effects to marine mammals, fish or their habitat. The commenter 
asserted that there is no scientific evidence suggesting whales detect 
odors from drilling, let alone respond to odors in a way that would 
substantially alter their migration patterns. Accordingly, the 
commenter asserted, concomitant changes to subsistence hunting, such as 
hypothetically needing to travel farther beyond historic whale 
migration routes and hunting areas, are not expected.
    BSEE has existing authority under Sec.  250.300(b)(1) to restrict 
drilling fluid discharges or prescribe alternative methods if 
environmental or operational concerns are raised. Amendments to the 
section clarify and provide guidance regarding the Regional 
Supervisor's authority to impose operational measures that complement 
EPA's discharge limitations by considering potential impacts to 
specific components of the Arctic environment, such as important 
subsistence activities, marine resources, and coastal areas. In 
crafting these amendments, the Bureaus considered all available 
science-based factors and traditional knowledge and determined the 
environmental effects of discharges into waters surrounding operations 
should be one of the factors the Regional Supervisor may consider when 
prohibiting discharges of water-based muds and associated cuttings. 
BOEM incorporates both science and traditional knowledge in its 
environmental documents prepared under the NEPA. This NEPA analysis 
helps ensure that BOEM and BSEE make decisions based on an 
understanding of environmental consequences with the intent to protect, 
restore, and enhance the environment of the Arctic OCS while balancing 
the Nation's need for oil and gas resources.
    One commenter recommended rewording the provisions to allow for a 
science-based assessment to be reviewed by BSEE and stakeholders as 
part of a transparent process.
    As a standard practice, BOEM and BSEE consult with Federal, State, 
and local governments, as well as federally recognized Alaska Native 
Tribes and ANCSA Corporations, and provide opportunities to be informed 
by the scientific community, non-governmental organizations, and 
concerned citizens to maintain transparency. However, for activity 
authorized under OCSLA, final decisions will rest either with BOEM 
under part 550 authorities or with BSEE under part 250 authorities. 
These decisions are made to protect the best interests of the Nation 
and in compliance with other Federal law, including, for example, NEPA, 
ESA, or the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
When and how must I secure a well? (formerly Sec.  250.402)
    BSEE proposed to add a new paragraph (c) to the former Sec.  
250.402. As discussed in Section IV.A, the contents of Sec.  250.402 
were subsequently moved to a new Sec.  250.720 by the Well Control 
Rule. Therefore the new paragraph (c) has been finalized at Sec.  
250.720(c) in this rulemaking. This new paragraph requires exploratory 
drilling operators on the Arctic OCS to ensure that any equipment left 
on, near, or in a temporarily abandoned well that has penetrated below 
the surface casing be secured in a way that would protect the well head 
and prevent or minimize the likelihood of the integrity of the well or 
plugs being compromised. The primary concern this provision is designed 
to address is the possibility that ice floes could sever, dislodge, or 
drag any exploration-related equipment, obstructions or protrusions 
left on the well or the adjacent seafloor. The language, however, is 
drafted to encompass damage from any foreseeable source. The provision 
in paragraph (c)(1), which is designed to be performance-based, would 
allow operators to devise optimal strategies for identifying and 
accounting for threats to the integrity of equipment left on the OCS, 
and would be limited only to exploration wells that have penetrated 
below the surface casing.
    However, for exploration wells located in an area subject to ice 
scour, based on a shallow hazards survey, final paragraph (c)(2) would 
require a mudline cellar or equivalent means of minimizing the risk of 
damage to the well head and well bore. BSEE added ``well bore'' to the 
provision to clarify that ice scour presents risks to equipment located 
both at the well head and in the well bore. BSEE may approve an 
equivalent means that will meet or exceed the level of safety and 
environmental protection required if the operator can show that 
utilizing a mudline cellar would compromise the stability of the rig, 
impede access to the well head during a well control event, or 
otherwise create operational risks. The BSEE Regional Supervisor will 
evaluate, during the APD process, whether a proposed equivalent 
approach is sufficiently protective.
    Several commenters supported a performance-based approach and 
recommended that the final rule revise proposed Sec.  250.402(c) to 
permit an operator to select technology that can best address the 
source control event according to the operator's plan. One of the 
commenters argued that a prescriptive approach to regulation stifles 
innovation, introduces uncertainty and promotes a particular type of 
spill response technology still in development, at the expense of other 
approaches combining different components that may provide equal or 
better protection against risk. This commenter asserted that the 
rulemaking does not provide a basis for determining how equivalency 
should or could be demonstrated by an operator or how it would be 
evaluated by the regulators.
    BSEE agrees with the importance of allowing for the use of 
technology that is best suited to an operator's plan and understands 
that technology may exist or be developed that provides equal or better 
protection against risk than that prescribed in the regulation. To 
clarify this, we are revising the language in proposed Sec.  
250.402(c)(2). The finalized regulation at Sec.  250.720(c)(2) 
establishes a performance standard, while also specifying a 
prescriptive method for achieving the performance standard. Section 
250.720(c)(1) provides that an operator must ensure applicable 
equipment is ``positioned in a manner'' that will protect the well head 
and prevent or minimize the likelihood of compromising the downhole 
integrity of the well or the effectiveness of the well plugs, but does 
not dictate how those ends are to be achieved. Additionally, in areas 
of ice scour, Sec.  250.720(c)(2) specifically allows for ``an 
equivalent'' to a well mudline cellar as an alternative means to 
protect the well head and wellbore. BSEE may approve an equivalent 
means that will meet or exceed the level of safety and environmental 
protection required if the operator can show that utilizing a mudline 
cellar would compromise the stability of the rig, impede access to the 
well head during a well control event, or otherwise create operational 
risks. The flexibility provided by these performance-based standards is 
adequate to address the commenter's concerns.

[[Page 46507]]

    Existing regulations also facilitate the approval of alternate 
equipment and procedures. Section 250.141--May I ever use alternate 
procedures or equipment? -allows for the District Manager or Regional 
Supervisor to approve the use of alternate procedures or equipment 
provided the operator can show the compliance measures will meet or 
exceed the level of safety and environmental protection required by 
this provision.
    Regarding the commenters' concern that this rulemaking does not 
provide a basis for determining how equivalency should or could be 
demonstrated by an operator or how it would be evaluated by the 
regulators, we note the concern and have added a discussion in Section 
III.B to clarify how BSEE implements the provisions of Sec.  250.141. 
Under Sec.  250.141(c), the operator must submit information or give an 
oral presentation to the Regional Supervisor describing the site-
specific application(s), performance characteristics, and safety 
features of the proposed procedure or equipment.
    One commenter suggested that the final regulations should allow for 
the use of an open system, such as the use of a rotating head, managed 
pressure drilling, and/or riser gas handler, as this would allow for 
closer monitoring of flows and wellbore pressures. The commenter 
asserted that use of these options would protect against the formation 
of undetected or unconfirmed hydrocarbons arriving at an open surface 
arrangement with no backpressure and subsequent violent expansion/
release of hydrocarbon gas clouds. The commenter recommended that the 
system used be determined based on water depth and other well/drilling 
rig parameters.
    BSEE generally agrees, with the qualification that use of a system 
that incorporates a rotating head device, managed pressure drilling 
(MPD) technology, and/or riser gas handlers, is only appropriate in 
certain situations. For example, in settings such as the Gulf of 
Mexico, particularly in deep water where the safe drilling margin is 
typically very narrow, this technology has been used effectively. 
Currently, we are aware of four different MPD type systems available 
for use in the Gulf of Mexico, including use of a rotating control 
device. These include the following: (1) Constant bottom hole pressure 
for drilling in narrow or relatively unknown safe mud weight windows; 
(2) return flow control for early kick-loss detection; (3) mud cap 
drilling for drilling in severe to total loss zones with sacrificial 
fluids; and (4) dual gradient drilling for drilling in water depths 
greater than 5,000 feet. Use of open systems may have applicability in 
frontier areas such as the Arctic OCS where additional hydrostatic 
control may be advantageous to ensure a well is drilled safely. The 
provisions finalized at Sec.  250.720(c) do not preclude an operator 
from proposing use of such a system in areas of ice scour. BSEE may 
approve an equivalent means that will meet or exceed the level of 
safety and environmental protection provided by a mudline cellar if the 
operator can show that utilizing a mudline cellar would compromise the 
stability of the rig, impede access to the well head during a well 
control event, or otherwise create operational risks. Additionally, an 
open system may be approved as an alternate procedure or equipment 
under Sec.  250.141 if it is demonstrated to provide an equivalent 
means of minimizing risk of damage to the well head and wellbore.
    One commenter recommended that BSEE provide guidance regarding the 
use of a slim-hole ``closed'' system approach during an initial 
exploration phase. The commenter asserted that a slim-hole approach may 
be quite possible in the Arctic and would result in far less impact on 
the environment for exploration drilling where no incident occurred. 
Additionally, the commenter asserted that the ``closed'' system allows 
for far better monitoring of flows in and out of the well.
    BSEE agrees with the comment, as the use of a slim hole ``closed'' 
system approach to exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS 
may have benefits in certain situations. As stated above, the 
provisions of this section do not preclude an operator from proposing 
use of such a system, if it can be demonstrated to provide an 
equivalent means of minimizing risk of damage to the well head. The 
existing regulations at Sec.  250.141 also allow an operator to propose 
alternative methods of compliance if they can validate that such 
proposals provide for an equivalent or greater level of safety to 
personnel and the environment as what is required in the regulations.
    One commenter suggested the use of a comprehensive up-to-date 
barrier diagram for each well, showing the condition and verification 
of each component of the barrier system. The commenter suggests that 
this diagram should be available for all involved to see and for 
inspection by authorities without notice.
    BSEE agrees with having a barrier diagram for each well and has 
determined the concern is addressed in existing regulations. Section 
250.413, What must my description of well drilling design criteria 
address?, requires the operator to submit a well diagram/wellbore 
schematic that includes the various barriers in a well (e.g., casing, 
liners, cement, downhole seal assemblies, plugs, drilling fluids, etc.) 
as part of the information submitted in a typical APD. Barrier 
information (e.g., packers, tubing, completion fluids, subsurface 
safety valves) is also required as part of a well completion 
application in the form of a wellbore schematic. If completion is 
planned and this data is available at the time the operator submits the 
APD and Supplemental APD Information Sheets (Forms BSEE-0123 and BSEE-
0124), the operator may request approval on those forms. BSEE believes 
these two schematics adequately address well barriers and that no 
revisions to the rule are necessary.
    One commenter recommended there should be improvements, as 
appropriate, to the barrier system, specifying that these may include 
improvements to BOP equipment and to the monitoring and verification of 
casing/tubular connections.
    We agree with the importance of improvements to barrier systems 
used during the drilling of a well. In addition to improvements enacted 
through this rulemaking, BSEE finalized several additional improvements 
to barrier systems in the Well Control Rule. BSEE also participates in 
various standards development work groups and workshops and has 
assisted with the preparation of Systems Reliability Technical 
Evaluations.\21\ BSEE has also initiated and funded approximately 30 
research projects to assist in implementing various improvements to key 
barrier systems. Studies of interest being conducted through the 
agency's Technical Assessment Program (TAP) include TAP #737--Risk 
Assessment for Life Cycle Management and Failure Reporting Systems and 
TAP #753--Evaluation of the Collection and Application of Risk Data. 
Other TAP studies on barriers address BOP system reliability, BOP 
shearing technology, safety management systems and subsurface safety 
valves.\22\ BSEE has also entered into an Interagency Agreement with 
Argonne National Laboratories to evaluate risk and further study 
drilling barrier management, including projects on BOP control

[[Page 46508]]

systems, shear ram certifications, risk-based inspection and regulatory 
practices, and risk-based decision making. Accordingly, while BSEE 
agrees with the importance of continuously pursuing improvements to 
barrier systems, it does not believe that any revisions to this rule 
for that purpose are necessary or appropriate at this time.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \21\ E.g., QC-FIT Evaluation of Seal Assembly & Cement Failures 
Report #2014-02, December 2014, QC-FIT Evaluation of Connector and 
Bolt Failures Report #2014-01, August 2014.
    \22\ TAP studies are available at http://www.bsee.gov/Technology-and-Research/Technology-Assessment-Programs/Categories/Production.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter cautioned that operations should recognize limits of 
the casing shoe and potential consequences, should the leak off test 
pressure be exceeded. The commenter recommended the regulations require 
an estimate of the shoe strength, updated as information becomes 
available, and an assessment of what pressures will be imposed upon the 
shoe (as the weakest point in the openhole section of the wellbore) 
given the well/formation characteristics, uncertainties and potential 
interacting operations. The commenter highlights the Frade incident 
(Chevron, Brazil, 2010) as an example of what can happen when these 
issues are not adequately addressed.
    BSEE is aware of the significance of the Frade incident, during 
which an estimated 4,600 barrels of oil leaked into the ocean during 
the drilling of an appraisal well in the Frade Offshore Field off the 
coast of Brazil, and has held various discussions with Brazil's 
National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels since the 
incident to better understand its causes. The agency believes that 
existing regulations at Sec.  250.427, which require a pressure 
integrity test after drilling at least 10 feet but no more than 50 feet 
of new hole below the casing shoe, are adequate to prevent such an 
incident happening on the Arctic OCS, even though these provisions do 
not require an additional pressure integrity test to update a shoe's 
strength.
    One commenter recommended revising the proposed rule to allow for 
better flow measurement in and out of the well. The commenter also 
suggested the need for better understanding of what differences could 
occur between flow in and flow out, specifying that this is needed 
where there is hydrocarbon within the flow system. The commenter 
asserted that it is essential to undertake detailed modeling of 
potential events in order to recognize potential issues and mitigations 
to be taken, and ensure that crews are properly and effectively 
trained.
    BSEE agrees with the comment on addressing better measurement of 
flow in and flow out of a well as a way to improve safety. In December 
2015, the agency completed a TAP study, #743-Evaluation of Automated 
Well Safety, studying early kick detection and managed pressure 
drilling, including use of a Coriolis meter to monitor flow in/flow out 
of a wellbore. This study identifies automated well safety technologies 
with the potential to increase safety during OCS drilling, well 
completion, well work over and production operations, as well as to 
assess early well kick detection approaches, equipment, techniques, and 
systems associated with drilling operations on the OCS. These studies 
will help us to identify and address improvements in flow measurements.
    One commenter recommended that, if a marine riser is used, 
additional instrumentation should be included to identify and provide 
alarms to address the presence of previously undetected hydrocarbons in 
the riser prior to these hydrocarbons reaching the surface.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter on the importance of detecting 
hydrocarbons in a drilling riser and notes that our existing 
regulations--formerly at Sec.  250.446(b) and moved by the Well Control 
Rule to new Sec.  250.739(c)--require a visual inspection of the riser 
at least every three days, weather and sea states permitting. BSEE 
believes that this requirement is adequate to assure the integrity of 
this system without installing additional riser instrumentation. Using 
additional riser instrumentation would not be an effective means of 
detecting hydrocarbons in drilling risers in the Arctic because of the 
short riser length needed to conduct shallow water drilling operations 
like those typically conducted on the Arctic OCS. In the event of a 
kick, short riser lengths will provide a limited amount of time between 
when a kick is detected in the wellbore and when the kick reaches the 
surface. Therefore, using additional riser instrumentation would 
provide negligible benefit.
    One commenter suggests that the final rule should be revised to 
implement systems addressing approaches for ensuring crew safety and 
access to the seabed wellhead. The commenter cautions that, for deep 
water operations (>5000 feet (1524 meters)), it is likely that a 
dynamically positioned MODU will sink away from the seabed location 
(wellhead) of a well that has blown out. Additionally, the commenter 
asserted that forcibly pulling a MODU off of a well that is blowing out 
may result in a far higher rush of hydrocarbons to the rig floor, with 
very serious implications for the safety of the crew and the subsequent 
blow-out events.
    BSEE disagrees that revisions to the rule are necessary. We 
consider access to the wellbore, wellhead and associated top hole 
equipment to be a part of the evaluation required under the revised 
Sec.  250.720(c). Under this provision, the operator is required to 
evaluate equipment needs when moving a drilling rig off a well prior to 
completion or permanent abandonment to ensure that an appropriate 
response to potential issues will be available. Regarding the 
commenter's concern related to dynamically positioned MODUs engaged in 
deep water operations, it is anticipated that none of the relevant 
Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations will be in water depths 
greater than 5000 feet. However, if operational realities change, the 
regulations finalized here do address the commenter's concern, as the 
operator must evaluate equipment needs and ensure appropriate responses 
to issues (e.g., MODUs sinking away from the wellhead) are available.
    One commenter expressed concern with running a capping stack in 
shallow water, particularly installing a capping stack within the 
``boil'' of a blowing out well. The commenter suggests that using a 
pre-positioned capping stack may be preferable.
    The commenter's concern is addressed in this final rule. The 
ability to install the capping stack under expected conditions, 
including within the ``boil'' of a blowing out well, is required to be 
evaluated by the operator and presented as a part of their APD. BSEE 
agrees that there may be situations when the capping stack will not be 
an appropriate response to a well control event, which is why this is 
only one part of a series of well control measures proposed in the 
rule, including containment systems and same season relief well 
capabilities. Additionally, this final rule does not preclude the use 
of a pre-positioned capping stack as a part of an operator's proposal, 
and BSEE will evaluate such proposals on a case-by-case basis. To 
clarify, we revised the definition of Capping Stack to include one that 
is pre-positioned and may be utilized below a surface BOP when deemed 
technically and operationally appropriate, such as when using a jack-up 
rig with surface trees.
    One requested BSEE consider relief well mooring patterns in 
advance, as the layout and installation of mooring systems may be 
complicated by the existing mooring system or by the inability to run 
mooring lines across the ``boil'' of a blowing out well.
    BSEE does not agree that advance positioning of pre-set moorings or 
partially pre-set moorings for a relief well rig would be appropriate. 
The actual geometry of a well, including its

[[Page 46509]]

well depth, surface and downhole locations, wellbore trajectory and 
water depth, is needed to accurately identify where a rig and its 
moorings should be located to drill a relief well. Much of this 
information cannot be determined or predicted in advance of a loss of 
well control. It is preferable to decide on a relief well mooring 
location(s) and mooring pattern at the time of an actual blowout, when 
the appropriate surface and downhole locations, geometry, wellbore 
trajectory and water depth of a relief well/rig can been determined. 
The rule does, however, require that the operator describe its plans 
for execution of relief well operations at both the EP and APD stages.
    One commenter stressed the importance of well and rig specific 
training. The commenter noted it is essential to undertake a detailed 
modeling of potential events so that potential issues can be 
recognized, mitigations developed, and crews properly and effectively 
trained.
    BSEE agrees with the importance of the role a well-trained crew 
plays in achieving safe and professional drilling operations. We 
believe that the training requirements in our existing regulations 
already provide the basis for developing this type of crew. Section 
250.1501, What is the goal of my training program?, requires training 
to ensure that employees and contractors engaged in well control, deep 
water well control, or production safety operations understand and can 
properly perform their duties. Section 250.1915, What training criteria 
must be in my SEMS program?, requires implementation of a training 
program developed in accordance with employee duties and 
responsibilities for use in the SEMS programs. These regulatory 
provisions require adequate training of workers specific to their 
positions at the relevant location and rig.
    Two commenters assert the final rule should require the submittal 
of a well control plan.
    Based on the limited information submitted with these comments, 
BSEE is assuming the commenter would like to see such a plan developed 
by an operator and submitted to BSEE as part of the approval of a well. 
Although BSEE agrees with the commenters that submittal of a well 
control plan would be of value to personnel safety and environmental 
protection, for such a plan to have meaningful input into actually 
controlling a well, the specifics of such a plan would need to be 
developed after a well control event. Therefore, BSEE does not agree 
that requiring a new plan as part of the approval of a well is 
appropriate. The actual response on the rig to a well control event is 
well specific and needs to be developed at the time of the event in 
order to capture the actual well depth, wellbore geometry, geology, mud 
weights, casing and/or liner setting depths, and wellbore properties 
(e.g., pore pressure, fracture gradient, leak off data). Making 
assumptions for this information ahead of an actual event will not be 
of value in combatting a loss of well control.
    It is important to note that BSEE already requires general well 
control plan type information in an operator's APD. In addition to 
discussing how a diverter system or a BOP will be used during an actual 
kick or loss of well control situation, the APD discusses general well 
control procedures (e.g., drilling method, wait and weight method, 
concurrent method of circulating out a kick) that may be implemented 
during an actual event. If an actual event takes place, the general 
information included in the APD will be modified in the field to 
properly address actual wellbore conditions and geometries. Similar 
information is also already required at the EP stage through, Sec.  
550.213(f) example, the blowout scenario required by Sec.  550.213(g), 
which addresses planning for response to a blowout, including surface 
intervention and relief well capabilities.
    One commenter contends that the revised regulations would be more 
effective from the standpoint of management of human and environmental 
risk in the Arctic offshore if they focused on prevention and alternate 
methods instead of focusing on a relief well plan. The commenter 
asserted that prevention through prudent well design and operations 
should be the primary method for control and containment.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter that prevention is an important 
component of control and containment, but disagrees with the comment 
that it would make response capability unnecessary. We believe the rule 
properly focuses on both prevention and response techniques, including 
relief well plans. Proper control of a well in an emergency is achieved 
through reliance on a wide variety of techniques that may be employed 
depending upon the circumstances, including use of a relief well 
according to the provisions of Sec.  250.472, if needed. These include, 
but are not limited to: Use of proper operational procedures; safe work 
practices; well maintained and effective equipment, systems, and 
technologies; a comprehensive inspection/audit program; use of properly 
trained employees and contractors capable of performing their job 
duties within the constraints of the actual rig equipment; and 
implementation of a robust safety management system. All of these 
techniques, including a well thought out relief well plan, need to work 
together to ensure proper well control under all circumstances during 
drilling operations.
    One commenter questioned whether a contractor bears a residual 
responsibility and/or liability for securing the downhole integrity of 
the well or the effectiveness of the well plugs.
    BSEE notes the operator is the ultimately responsible party for all 
safety, operational, and environmental concerns during a drilling 
operation. However, any person performing an activity under a lease 
issued or maintained under OCSLA must comply with regulations 
applicable to that activity, is obligated to take corrective action, 
and is subject to civil penalties for a failure to comply. Under the 
requirements of Sec.  250.107(a)(1) and (2), all operations on a lease 
must be performed in a safe and workmanlike manner, and work areas must 
be maintained in a safe condition. Accordingly, contractors can be held 
responsible for activities related to securing a well where they 
actually perform those activities.\23\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ For additional guidance on contractor liability, see BSEE's 
Interim Policy Document (IPD) No. 12-07, Issuance of an Incident of 
Non Compliance (INC) to Contractors (August 15, 2014), available at 
http://www.bsee.gov/uploadedFiles/Issuance%20of%20an%20Incident%20of%20Non%20Compliance%20to%20Contractors.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter suggests that barrier requirements be qualified for 
the environmental conditions and time period used, for example, deep 
set versus shallow set plugs.
    BSEE agrees that barriers, dual barriers and otherwise, need to be 
qualified for the environmental conditions and time period used. The 
barrier requirements included in this rule and in our existing 
regulations allow for such barriers to function properly at all times 
in the environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, pressure, geologic 
and fluids) to which they are exposed during their operational life. 
Therefore, both the revisions to Sec.  250.720 in the final rule and 
the existing BSEE regulations \24\ are sufficient to ensure that plugs,

[[Page 46510]]

whether set deep in the well or at a shallow well depth, are qualified 
for the environmental conditions and time period used.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \24\ See, e.g. regulations at 30 CFR 250.400 through 250.490, 
subpart D, Oil and Gas Drilling regulations; 250.500 through 
250.531, subpart E, Oil and Gas Well-Completion regulations; 250.600 
through 250.630, subpart F, Oil and Gas Well-Workover; and 250.1700 
through 250.1754, subpart Q, Decommissioning Activities.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter recommended revising proposed Sec.  250.402(c)(2) 
because they claimed it introduces problems for some drilling platform 
choices, and because there is no basis for the assumption that the 
absence of a mudline cellar increases potential risk to the wellbore. 
The commenter argued that the uniform requirement for a mudline cellar 
poses special problems for a bottom-founded rig. The commenter also 
asserted the scope of the proposed requirement for mudline cellars will 
depend greatly on how areas of ice scour are identified, and suggested 
that ice scour analysis should be defined in the regulation to ensure 
objective and reasonable application.
    Although BSEE disagrees with the commenter's claim that there is no 
basis for the assumption that the absence of a mudline cellar increases 
potential risk to the wellbore, we do agree there may be operational 
difficulties presented by a uniform requirement for a mudline cellar 
and did not intend this requirement to be overbroad in its application. 
The proposed language at Sec.  250.402(c)(2) required the operator to 
use a mudline cellar in areas of ice scour, while allowing for the use 
of ``equivalent means of minimizing the risk of damage to the well 
head.'' To clarify this requirement, we are revising the language in 
proposed Sec.  250.402(c)(2), as set out in the regulatory text of 
final Sec.  250.720(c)(2). This revision clarifies that an operator may 
seek approval of an equivalent means to protect the well head and 
wellbore if it can also show how a mudline cellar would create 
operational risks. The operator must demonstrate that the equivalent 
means of minimizing the risk of damage to the well head and wellbore 
will meet or exceed the level of safety and environmental protection 
provided by a mudline cellar. Similar flexibility is provided through 
existing Sec.  250.141.
    Regarding the commenter's suggestion that ice scour analysis should 
be defined in the regulation, we disagree. BSEE has determined not to 
prescribe a means of analysis of scour data specific to any one 
technology to allow for the use of new technologies which may be used 
to determine ice scour (e.g., satellite, or a currently unknown type of 
technology) in the future.
    One commenter asserted there is no reasonable basis for concluding 
that ice collision damage to a well head would impair integrity of the 
well down at the level of a hydrocarbon zone. The commenter suggests 
the focus of the regulations should be protection against the loss of 
oil containment, best done with attention to barriers and plugging. The 
commenter acknowledged that although the proposed rule does allow 
``equivalent means'' to a mudline cellar, no guidance is provided on 
what might be considered equivalent, and no equivalent alternative is 
readily apparent.
    BSEE disagrees with the premise that protecting the well head 
should not be a focus of the regulations, nor do we agree that a well 
head compromised by ice collision would not impair the downhole 
integrity of the well. Having a mudline cellar in place to protect the 
wellhead provides an additional protection against a loss of well 
control and possible release of hydrocarbons to the environment. BSEE 
further notes that, as discussed in the previous comment, we have 
revised the language in final Sec.  250.720(c)(2) to clarify what an 
operator should show when requesting to utilize an equivalent that 
minimizes risk to both the well head and the well bore under this 
provision. Additionally, alternative compliance measures may be 
approved under the requirements of Sec.  250.141, as appropriate. As 
discussed throughout this preamble, we have included discussion on the 
criteria BSEE will consider to approve such measures in Section III.B.
What additional information must I submit with my APD? (Sec.  250.418)
    BSEE proposed to add a new paragraph to existing Sec.  250.418. 
Proposed Sec.  250.418(k) requires operators conducting exploratory 
drilling operations on the Arctic OCS to provide, with their APD, 
information concerning how they will comply with the SCCE requirements 
of Sec.  250.470. No comments were received on the proposed language, 
and the language is adopted without change, however the paragraph is 
now designated as paragraph (i) to conform to other, unrelated 
revisions to Sec.  250.418 finalized in the Well Control Rule). See 
later in this Section for the discussion of comments on Sec.  250.470 
for BSEE's response to comments related to the SCCE requirements.
When must I pressure test the BOP system? (Proposed Sec.  250.447)
    Existing Sec.  250.737, finalized in the Well Control Rule, 
requires a 14-day testing frequency for the BOP hydrostatic pressure 
test. BSEE had proposed to revise existing Sec.  250.447(b) to 
implement a 7-day testing frequency for the BOP hydrostatic pressure 
test for Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations, increasing the 
frequency from the 14-day interval currently required for all OCS 
drilling operations (see NPRM, 80 FR 9934-5). BSEE received several 
comments on the appropriate interval for BOP pressure testing. Many 
commenters supported retaining the 14-day test cycle for various 
reasons, while others requested that BSEE require a 7-day test cycle 
for the Arctic assert that more frequent testing has not been proven to 
decrease reliability of the equipment and would improve safety and 
protection of the environment.
    We do agree with the commenters' support for additional safety and 
protection on the Arctic OCS and have determined the current 
regulations improve safety and protection of the environment. As 
discussed in Section IV.A, Summary of Key Changes from the NPRM, BSEE 
has decided not to adopt the proposed 7-day testing interval and will 
maintain the same 14-day test cycle on the Arctic OCS as is required 
elsewhere on the OCS. We note that Sec.  250.737(a)(4) allows for the 
District Manager to require more frequent testing if conditions (Arctic 
or otherwise) or the BOP performance warrant. Additionally, Sec.  
250.737(d)(9) requires a function test of the annular and ram BOPs 
every 7 days, between pressure tests, ensuring the BOP rams will 
function in all operating conditions.
    Many commenters highlighted a lack of evidence that reducing the 
testing interval of the BOP systems from a 14-day test cycle to a 7-day 
test cycle would result in an increase of safety. These commenters 
asserted that more frequent pressure testing has not been shown to 
increase reliability of the equipment and expressed concerns that the 
more frequent test cycle would cause increased wear-and-tear and 
fatigue wear of the BOP components, increase the risk that the BOP 
system will be damaged during testing, increase the likelihood that a 
well control event could occur during testing, and unnecessarily 
shorten the drilling season. Several of the commenters also noted that 
existing BSEE regulations authorize BSEE to require additional testing 
frequency, if needed.
    BSEE agrees. We are not aware of any reliable data that show that 
more frequent testing enhances the safety of operations. We also have 
concluded that there is evidence that frequent testing may increase 
some risks, as well as increase the time needed for operations. BSEE 
has determined that existing regulations for BOP hydrostatic pressure 
testing requirements will remain at the 14-day interval and provide for 
an

[[Page 46511]]

appropriate level of safety for exploratory operation on the Arctic 
OCS. Therefore, we have decided not to finalize the 7-day testing 
frequency requirement for exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS.
    Several commenters also asserted that a 7-day testing interval 
would directly conflict with BOP testing requirements finalized in the 
Well Control Rule for all operations on the OCS, and there is no basis 
for requiring different BOP testing requirements on the Arctic OCS. The 
commenters emphasized that BOP testing is not an Arctic-specific issue, 
as BOP performance is equally important regardless of where the 
operations are conducted. The commenters asserted that subsea 
temperatures in the Arctic are very similar to those encountered in 
deep water in the Gulf of Mexico at the seafloor and, similarly, BOPs 
operating onshore in the winter at negative temperatures are not 
subject to more frequent testing. Commenters asserted that, if BSEE 
requires the 7-day testing schedule for the Arctic OCS, then the 
question could be raised as to whether the 7-day testing schedule 
should be instituted for all OCS operations on the basis of greater 
safety. One commenter recommended that the regulations allow for the 
operator to demonstrate that the BOP equipment, elastomers, and 
hydraulic control fluid are suitable for the expected Arctic operating 
environment, including both surface and subsea conditions, with the 
specifications reviewed and approved by the appropriate regulatory 
agency.
    BSEE generally agrees with the commenters. After considering all 
the information available, we have determined that the BOP hydrostatic 
pressure testing requirements will remain at the 14-day interval. We 
note that while our decision was based on public comments and available 
studies rather than the desire for uniformity for all OCS operations, 
the result is that BOP testing requirements will remain consistent for 
all oil and gas drilling operations on the OCS. BSEE is confident that 
the unique operating conditions on the Arctic OCS will be addressed, if 
needed, by the existing Sec.  250.737 allowance for the District 
Manager to require more frequent testing if conditions or BOP 
performance warrant.
    Several commenters expressed concern that BSEE did not provide 
adequate technical analysis or justification for proposing the 7-day 
BOP test cycle for Arctic OCS operations. These commenters emphasized 
that BSEE proposed changing the testing interval based only on Shell's 
voluntary reduction of the testing interval in 2012 and on a request 
from another organization for more frequent BOP testing. Many of the 
commenters also referred to research supporting less frequent BOP 
testing. These commenters asked whether BSEE has obtained other studies 
or additional information that would suggest more frequent BOP pressure 
testing will result in safer operations. Commenters noted that 
worldwide, except for the OCS, the standard for BOP pressure testing is 
21 days, and that API RP 53 recommends 21 day BOP pressure testing.
    BSEE agrees with the commenters on the importance of technical 
information and study on this issue. After considering all the 
available information, we have determined to retain the 14-day BOP 
testing interval. The proposed requirement for more frequent testing 
was based in part on how Shell conducted operations in 2012. The 
decision not to require a 7-day BOP testing interval, however, is based 
on public comments and available studies. We agree with the commenters 
highlighting conclusions reached by several studies supporting the 
decision to retain the 14-day BOP testing interval, including the 1999 
Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian 
Institute of Technology (SINTEF) study,\25\ the follow up SINTEF study 
\26\ released in 2001, and the study by Tetrahedron, Inc.,\27\ which 
was the basis for the change in regulations (see 63 FR 29604, June 1, 
1998) from a 7-day BOP test frequency to the current 14-day test 
frequency.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \25\ Holand, Per, Reliability of Subsea BOP Systems for 
Deepwater Application, Phase II DW, SINTEF, Trondheim, Norway, 
November 7, 1999.
    \26\ Unrestricted report, Deepwater Kicks and BOP performance, 
SINTEF, Final Report, July 2001.
    \27\ Reliability of Blowout Preventers Tested Under Fourteen and 
Seven Days Time Interval, Final Report, Tetrahedron, Inc, December 
1996. Report available at http://www.bsee.gov/Technology-and-Research/Technology-Assessment-Programs/Projects/Project-253/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Regarding commenters' support for a 21-day testing interval, we 
have determined that available data does not support changes from the 
general 14-day testing interval at this time. BSEE is aware of concerns 
that the more frequently BOPs are tested, the more likely the equipment 
might wear out prematurely, and thus fail to operate properly when 
needed. Additionally, an operator that believes a different interval is 
warranted by special circumstances may seek approval from the District 
Manager of an alternative procedure in accordance with Sec.  250.141 or 
a departure under Sec.  250.142.
What are the real-time monitoring requirements for Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling operations? (Sec.  250.452)
    BSEE proposed to add a new performance-based section in Part 250 
that would require real-time data gathering on the BOP control system, 
the fluid handling systems on the rig, and, if a downhole sensing 
system is installed, the well's downhole conditions during Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling operations. In addition, the proposed provision 
would have required operators to transmit immediately the data during 
operations to an onshore location, identified to BSEE prior to well 
operations, where it must be stored and monitored by personnel who 
would be capable of interpreting the data and have the authority, in 
consultation with rig personnel, to initiate any necessary action in 
response to abnormal events or data. Such personnel must also have the 
capability for continuous and reliable contact with rig personnel, to 
ensure the ability to communicate information or instructions between 
the rig and onshore facility in real-time, while operations are 
underway.
    Several comments were received on this section. As discussed in 
Section IV.A, Summary of Key Changes from the NPRM, BSEE is revising 
the proposed Sec.  250.452 in response to comments received on the 
requirements. These revisions clarify the operator's responsibilities 
for complying with the RTM requirements. The revised proposed section 
requires operators to transmit data, as it is gathered, to a designated 
on shore location where it must be stored and monitored by qualified 
personnel who have the capability for continuous contact with rig 
personnel.
    Several commenters recommended removing the RTM requirements from 
the final rule. One of the commenters suggested that RTM for a BOP 
Control System should not be considered as useful as RTM for drilling 
parameters or Measurement While Drilling (MWD) data feeds. Another of 
the commenters recommended removing the proposed requirement because it 
is being addressed in the Well Control Rule.
    BSEE disagrees. Due to the harsh environment and remote nature of 
the Arctic, exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS, absent additional 
precautions appropriate to the region, constitutes a significantly 
higher risk activity than conventional drilling operations in other 
regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico and southern California. Therefore, 
we have determined it is appropriate to require RTM as an

[[Page 46512]]

additional safety precaution for the BOP Control System, among others, 
as the BOP is one of the major safety barriers for preventing a loss of 
well control event. Additionally, we disagree that the RTM requirements 
can be removed from this final rule because the requirement is 
addressed in the Well Control Rule. The requirements finalized at Sec.  
250.452 are applicable to all exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS, 
whereas the requirements finalized at Sec.  250.724 in the Well Control 
Rule only apply to drilling operations using a subsea BOP or surface 
BOP on a floating unit, or high pressure high temperature (HPHT) 
drilling operations (see 81 FR 25888).
    Two commenters recommended that BSEE wait to finalize the RTM 
requirements until the completion of the National Academy of Sciences 
Marine Board Study.
    The Marine Board study report was released in May 2016 and is 
posted on the BSEE Web site.\28\ The study report includes a 
recommendation for BSEE to pursue a performance-based regulatory 
framework by focusing on a risk-based regime that determines relevant 
uses of RTM based on assessed levels of risk and complexity. BSEE 
believes this rule meets the intent of that recommendation. It 
represents a balance between performance-based requirements and base-
level requirements. BSEE will require basic RTM capabilities for 
exploratory drilling activities in the Arctic based on the applicable 
considerations of risk and complexity, as discussed above, but will 
require operators to assess their own particular operational risks and 
determine the specific parameters to monitor those risks. It is 
important to note that the Marine Board study is part of an ongoing 
research effort by BSEE to better understand RTM technologies and their 
potential use by industry and BSEE. BSEE completed an internal study on 
RTM in March 2014, which yielded preliminary recommendations on the use 
of RTM technology during drilling, completion, workover, and production 
operations and described possible scenarios in which BSEE could use RTM 
to enhance its regulatory oversight capabilities. BSEE also 
commissioned an outside study on RTM, which was completed in January 
2014.\29\ The outside study provided information and recommendations on 
several topics, including: (1) The current state/usage of RTM 
technology; (2) cost-benefit of RTM; (3) training for RTM; (4) critical 
parameters and operations to monitor with RTM; (5) condition monitoring 
using RTM; (6) regulatory approach (prescriptive vs. performance-based) 
for RTM; and (7) automation role for RTM. The Marine Board held the 
public workshop in April 2015 to review these two study reports and a 
summary of the workshop is posted on the Marine Board's Web site.\30\ 
BSEE has carefully reviewed the comments received on the proposed rule 
and the other available information, and concludes that it is 
appropriate at this time to finalize the RTM provisions of this rule 
because existing information and wide-spread industry use supports the 
conclusion that RTM requirements enhance safe drilling operations.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \28\ Report is available at http://www.bsee.gov/Technology-and-Research/Technology-Assessment-Programs/Projects/Project-740.
    \29\ Summary available at http://www.bsee.gov/Technology-and-Research/Technology-Assessment-Programs/Projects/Project-707.
    \30\ Summary available at http://www.trb.org/main/blurbs/173606.aspx.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter suggested that the role of RTM in managing emergency 
situations should be assessed to understand the impact of human factors 
on performance.
    BSEE agrees that human factors play an important role in an 
effective emergency response, and the way that data streams from 
programs, including RTM, affect the emergency response decision process 
should be anticipated and described in the operator's SEMS program. 
This is in line with API RP 75, which is incorporated by reference into 
the SEMS regulations and which specifically promotes the consideration 
of human factors in the design of a SEMS, including as an underlying 
SEMS principle (Section 1.1.2.n.), in the design of new and modified 
facilities (Section 2.3.5), in the conduct of hazards analysis (Section 
3), in the crafting of operating procedures ``to minimize the 
likelihood of procedural error'' (Section 5), in the design of Safe 
Work Practices (Section 6), and in ensuring that critical equipment is 
easily accessible for critical tasks (Section 7). Ultimately, the 
operator is responsible for determining how to effectively integrate 
RTM and human factors into their emergency response and well control 
planning.
    Three commenters expressed concern about the ability to continue 
operations in the event of a failure or interruption in the data link 
to shore. One of the commenters further stated that even when no 
failure or interruption occurs, RTM data will have a small lag time 
associated with it and will not be ``immediately transmitted.''
    BSEE agrees it should not be necessary to cease operations just 
because of a temporary loss of the RTM data feed. In this type of 
situation, the operator should have the ability to gather and record 
the data in the control room of the offshore unit and transmit the data 
to shore once the data feed is restored. To clarify this point, we 
deleted the word ``immediately'' from the proposed text and revised the 
first sentence of final Sec.  250.452(b) to state that during well 
operations, you must transmit the data identified in paragraph (a) as 
they are gathered, barring unforeseeable or unpreventable interruptions 
in transmission, and have the capability to monitor the data onshore, 
using qualified personnel. Onshore personnel who monitor real-time data 
must have the capability to contact rig personnel during operations. 
Additionally, to clarify that in the event of a failure or interruption 
of the datalink the operator should continue collecting RTM data, we 
added qualifying language to Sec.  250.452(a), providing that the 
monitoring system must be ``independent, automatic, and continuous'' to 
ensure the operator is able to transmit data, even if not immediately, 
in a timely and appropriate manner. See Section IV. A for a complete 
discussion of changes from the proposed regulatory text of Sec.  
250.452.
    Three commenters recommended that operators should have the 
flexibility to develop a performance-based approach to state in their 
EP or APD which functions will be monitored.
    We agree with the comment and have deleted ``all aspects of'' from 
Sec.  250.452(a) to allow flexibility for a more performance-based 
approach. An operator can explain which functions of the identified 
systems will be monitored in their EP or APD.
    One commenter recommended the parameters of RTM should be more 
defined.
    BSEE disagrees. We determined that defining exact parameters in 
this regulation would be overly prescriptive. BSEE believes guidance 
documents and industry standards are the best way to define important 
parameters for RTM as this technology continues to advance.
    Several commenters cautioned that the proposed RTM requirements 
shift operational decision making away from operators and rig personnel 
and recommended that the language be clarified to affirm that it is the 
primary responsibility of onboard rig personnel to monitor operations.
    BSEE agrees that command and control decision making is typically 
the primary responsibility of the onboard rig personnel, and the 
onshore RTM personnel should in most, if not all, scenarios only 
function in an advisory capacity. It was not BSEE's intent, nor

[[Page 46513]]

does BSEE agree that the proposed rule text implied, that the RTM 
requirement would result in a shift of responsibility away from onboard 
rig personnel. To clarify this point, we deleted the proposed text in 
Sec.  250.452(b): ``. . . and who have the authority, in consultation 
with rig personnel, to initiate any necessary action in response to 
abnormal data or events.'' This revision makes clear that the onboard 
rig personnel should continue to have the primary responsibility to 
monitor operations and act accordingly. The RTM monitoring requirements 
seek to help improve, not disrupt, the ability of onboard rig personnel 
to monitor operations and assess and mitigate risks. See Section IV.A 
for a complete discussion of changes from the proposed regulatory text 
of Sec.  250.452.
    One commenter asked whether there is an implicit requirement for 
contractors to maintain duplicate records, or ascertain if the required 
RTM is being undertaken, and to suspend operations if not.
    The operator is responsible for overall compliance with the 
regulations during operations, and the primary monitoring and record-
keeping responsibility belongs to the operator. However, under existing 
Sec.  250.146, a contractor actually performing operations also has the 
responsibility to comply with regulations applicable to those 
operations, as does anyone actually performing operations carried out 
under an OCS lease. Responsibilities for contractors are further 
clarified in BSEE's Interim Policy Document (IPD) No. 12-07 (August 15, 
2012), ``Issuance of Incident of Non Compliance (INC) to Contractors.'' 
The IPD clarifies that any person performing an activity on a lease 
issued under OCSLA is responsible for compliance with regulations 
applicable to that activity, and can be held accountable for 
noncompliance. Additionally, under existing Sec.  250.1914, an 
operator's SEMS program must contain appropriate detail in the bridging 
documents between the operator and any contractors, including the 
contractor's roles and responsibilities with regard to RTM. 
Accordingly, a contractor's responsibility for compliance with the RTM 
provisions depends upon the contractor's role with respect to carrying 
out the RTM requirements.
    One commenter noted that BSEE will be exposed to proprietary and 
confidential information when they visit an operator's Real Time 
Operations Center, and will need to be bound by confidentiality 
agreements.
    BSEE agrees that it must protect proprietary information in 
accordance with Federal law. As Federal regulators, BSEE personnel 
routinely work with proprietary and confidential information in the 
course of carrying out their official duties, so this is not a unique 
issue to RTM. We will employ the same safeguards, training and 
accountability measures, and oversight to comply with all Federal laws 
for protecting proprietary and confidential information obtained 
pursuant to these provisions. To further clarify, we note that BOEM and 
BSEE routinely protect proprietary information in accordance with 
existing Sec. Sec.  250.197 and 550.197, Data and information to be 
made available to the public or for limited inspection, and 
requirements of controlling law such as the Trade Secrets Act.
    One commenter expressed concern that the USCG has not been involved 
in the development of the RTM requirements, as they have some 
jurisdiction over these rigs and this monitoring requirement could 
impact other rig functions and present possible cyber and security 
threats.
    BSEE acknowledges the commenter's concern but disagrees with the 
basis of the comment. We have shared the proposed and finalized 
regulatory requirements for RTM, and all other requirements, in this 
rulemaking with the USCG as part of the interagency review process 
required by E.O. 12866. Additionally, we have an existing Memorandum of 
Agreement (MOA) with the USCG discussing shared regulatory 
responsibilities on MODUs. MOA OCS-08 Mobile Offshore Drilling Units 
(MODUs) (June 4, 2013) \31\ addresses issues related to shared RTM 
responsibilities between USCG and BSEE such as station keeping and 
dynamic positioning. Although MOA-OCS-08 does not specifically address 
RTM, it does address the systems and subsystems being monitored. 
Regarding the cyber risk, because the RTM requirement relates only to 
remote monitoring of operational aspects and not remote control, there 
should be reduced risk of the RTM system becoming a significant cyber 
vulnerability. However, BSEE and the USCG agree there are many aspects 
of modern offshore oil and gas operations that pose a cyber risk. This 
topic is being considered outside the scope of this rulemaking effort.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \31\ Available at http://www.bsee.gov/BSEE-Newsroom/Publications-Library/Interagency-Agreements/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter questioned whether BSEE will expect RTM to reduce the 
number of BSEE inspectors physically present offshore 24/7 during 
drilling activity.
    The finalized requirements of Sec.  250.452 do not address how much 
of an inspection presence BSEE will maintain. The variability of 
inspection presence on any facility is dictated by internal BSEE 
policy, which accounts for many factors, including inspection resource 
availability and the relative risk of the operations. BSEE may take 
into account the availability of RTM among those considerations.
    One commenter cautions that RTM technology will increase the 
current level of complexity in the BOP and suggests that the 
interaction with software should be addressed through a formal 
qualification process. The commenter further asserted that the 
maintenance and repair of BOPs will need to be done to Original 
Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations unless otherwise directed 
by BSEE, but the proposed regulations do not define how this will be 
enforced.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter that RTM technology will increase 
the complexity of BOPs, but has determined the commenter's concern has 
been addressed by the requirements finalized in the Well Control Rule 
at Sec.  250.732, What are the BSEE-approved verification organization 
(BAVO) requirements for BOP systems and system components?. These 
requirements apply to all BOPs and include a requirement under Sec.  
250.732(d)(8) that the BAVO report to BSEE include ``[a] comprehensive 
assessment of the overall system and verification that all components 
(including mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, and software) are 
compatible.'' Also, Sec.  250.732(d)(3) requires that the BAVO report 
to BSEE include a description of all inspection, repair and maintenance 
records reviewed, and verification that all repairs, replacement parts, 
and maintenance meet regulatory requirements, recognized engineering 
practices, and OEM specifications.
    One commenter suggested that qualifying of BOP components for the 
actual operating conditions through appropriate testing and 
qualification plans should be extended beyond the rams and shear tests, 
and all scenarios should be considered.
    BSEE disagrees. While it would be ideal to be able to test all the 
possible forces a BOP could experience when qualifying BOP components, 
this is usually not practical in a testing laboratory setting. 
Accordingly, calculations are typically permitted to supplement the 
testing results and account for the full range of forces that

[[Page 46514]]

were not otherwise practical to simulate.
What additional information must I submit with my APD for Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling operations? (Sec.  250.470)
    BSEE proposed to add a new Sec.  250.470, requiring operators to 
provide Arctic OCS-specific information with their APDs for exploratory 
drilling. The proposed informational requirements in the new section 
would be necessary to inform BSEE's evaluation of APDs for Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling operations.
    Several comments were received on this section. BSEE has evaluated 
the comments and determined that, with the exception of various 
technical edits, the substantive provisions of Sec.  250.470 are 
finalized as proposed.
    One commenter recommended that Sec.  250.470 should include a 
requirement for operators to submit corrective action plans associated 
only with rectifying any deficiencies in the drilling unit or equipment 
that have been previously identified by a BSEE inspector on an Incident 
of Noncompliance (INC).
    BSEE disagrees. The regulatory requirements of Sec.  250.470 
provides that drilling units and equipment may operate elsewhere 
outside of the Arctic drilling season, and the rigs may need repairs or 
maintenance before beginning operations on the Arctic OCS. Accordingly, 
the operator will need to demonstrate it is fully prepared to drill on 
the Arctic OCS prior to each drilling season. BSEE inspections are only 
one aspect of ensuring safe operations. The operator is responsible for 
ensuring the safety of their equipment by conducting on-going 
maintenance and repairs, and the operator must identify needed repair 
and maintenance for the drilling unit and equipment independent of the 
issuance of any INCs.
    One commenter asserted that the APD provisions require an operator 
to resubmit a significant amount of information that is already 
included with the EP and the IOP.
    BSEE disagrees. The additional information to be submitted with an 
APD under Sec.  250.470 is not a requirement to re-submit duplicative 
information. BSEE expects that when the operator submits the APD, it 
will by then have a detailed plan that will include information on the 
same topics touched on in the IOP and EP, but that was not available at 
the time the IOP or EP was submitted. This may include information such 
as the identity of equipment and vessels to be used, dates of planned 
operations, and additional information on how the equipment and vessels 
would be designed for and be capable of performing in Arctic OCS 
conditions. To the extent that the operator has already provided 
necessary information in its approved EP, it may reference that 
information or recreate it with little burden.
    One commenter supported the proposal to require detailed Arctic-
specific information in the APD, but cautions that this information 
will be provided too late in the Department's review and approval 
process to provide adequate opportunity for the public to review and 
comment on this information. The commenter recommended BSEE require the 
inclusion of this important technical data as part of the IOP and EP 
review, in which outside parties may participate. The commenter 
recommended, as an alternative if BSEE prefers to require this 
important information only in the APD application, that the regulations 
be revised to include an opportunity for ``outsiders'' to participate 
in APD review.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter's statements on the importance of 
the APD, but disagrees with requiring the same information as part of 
the IOP and EP submissions. The IOP, EP, and APD are intended to allow 
the operator an opportunity to provide increasingly detailed 
information that is pertinent to each stage of the exploratory drilling 
operation approval process. Much of the information submitted with the 
APD is not expected to be available or relevant when submitting the IOP 
or EP.
    While the commenter's suggestion regarding who should be able to 
participate in the review of the APD is unclear, we assume it is 
referring to the public. Since much of the information submitted with 
an APD will likely contain proprietary information, BSEE does not 
believe it would be appropriate to involve the public directly in the 
APD review process. However, we note that the regulatory requirements 
for the IOP, EP, and APD require the operator to make informational 
copies available to the public with the proprietary information 
removed. Operators are required to submit an informational copy of 
their APD, which will be publicly available on the BSEE.gov Web site: 
(http://www.data.bsee.gov/homepg/data_center/plans/apdcombined/master.asp). The APD is a technical document that explains how an 
operator will safely drill a well. As part of BSEE's review of the APD, 
BSEE ensures the APD is consistent with the approved EP, and, if not 
consistent, the operator must revise the APD or the EP, as appropriate. 
The EP process affords input during the review process from Federal 
agencies, State and local governments Tribal governments, ANCSA 
Corporations, as well as the public. The transparency of both the APD 
process and the related IOP and EP processes (as described earlier in 
connection with comments on Sec.  550.206) allow for public review and 
input throughout the process, as appropriate. Therefore, an additional 
specific public review process at the APD stage is redundant and 
unnecessary.
    One commenter requested, in addition to the information required 
under Sec.  250.470(c)(8) and (d), that BSEE require operators to 
submit documentation describing the criteria they would use for 
triggering site abandonment due to ice, and an organization chart of 
the operator's own personnel and subcontractors involved in such an 
operation. The commenter suggested that the criteria should be defined 
in quantities easy to observe and measure and should be linked to the 
operational mode of the MODU and its capacity as defined in the Fitness 
Requirements of former Sec.  250.417(a). (The Well Control Rule removed 
and reserved former Sec.  250.417 and moved the contents of that 
section to new Sec.  250.713.) The commenter recognized that the 
criteria are indicated in EP requirements under Sec.  
550.220(c)(2)(iii). However, the commenter asserted the criteria are 
not clear because terminology related to ice management is 
inconsistently applied throughout the proposed regulations. The 
commenter referenced additional details regarding such criteria found 
in clause 17 of ISO 19906 (incorporated by Sec.  250.470(g) in API RP 
2N Third edition), but which the commenter asserted should be clarified 
in the rules rather than through IBR.
    BSEE disagrees, as the provisions finalized at Sec.  250.470 
require the operator to present the required criteria for site 
abandonment due to ice in a measurable quantity and are in accordance 
with the Fitness Requirements in paragraph (a) of Sec.  250.713, What 
must I provide if I plan to use a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) 
for well operations?. Section 250.470(c)(7) requires that the 
operator's APD include information on well-specific drilling 
objectives, timelines, and updated contingency plans for temporary 
abandonment of a well, which must include specific information on when 
and how the operator plans to abandon the well and how the Arctic OCS 
specific requirements of paragraph (c) of final Sec.  250.720, When and 
how must I secure a well?, will be met. These provisions are specific 
to Arctic OCS exploratory

[[Page 46515]]

drilling operations and necessarily cover abandonment due to ice. 
Additionally, Sec.  250.470(d)(2) requires that the operator to include 
with its APD a detailed description of weather and ice forecasting 
capabilities for all phases of the drilling operation and plans for 
managing ice hazards. Similarly, Sec.  250.470(g) requires compliance 
with API RP 2N Third Edition, which is largely identical to the 
standard identified by the commenter, including a description in the 
APD of how the operator will use relevant best practices included 
therein. The commenter references the EP requirements set forth in 
Sec.  550.220(c)(2)(iii), which require the operator to include a 
description of its weather and ice forecasting and management plans, 
including the operator's procedures and thresholds for activating ice 
and weather management systems. The EP and APD requirements are 
similar, but implicated at different stages of the approval process and 
utilize different, but similar, terminology. The EP is intended to 
provide the operator the opportunity to present its overall plan for 
operations, and the APD is the technical document that provides the 
operator the opportunity to present details regarding how the plan will 
be implemented.
    The commenter does not explain why requiring the submission of an 
organization chart would help BSEE's oversight efforts. If conditions 
require site abandonment, BSEE would deal directly with the operator or 
the operator's representative to address the situation. The operator 
would be responsible for directing its personnel and contractors, as 
appropriate.
    One commenter recommended that the APD include a requirement for a 
written well control plan and evidence of a contract with a well 
control expert. The commenter asserted that, although written well 
control plans and contracts with well control experts are industry 
standard, like other important practices, this minimum standard should 
be codified in regulation so short-cuts are not taken. The commenter 
recommended that the Arctic emergency well control plan include 
information regarding the primary rig, SCCE, secondary relief well rig, 
and additional well barriers. The commenter further recommended that 
the well control plan should be site-specific and appropriate for 
Arctic OCS conditions.
    BSEE disagrees with the recommendation to require a written well 
control plan. BSEE does not require a well control plan because it is 
the responsibility of the operator to determine how best to address 
these requirements and ensure they have the appropriate equipment 
available, the contracts in place, and their personnel properly 
trained. Additionally, the regulations finalized in this rulemaking 
build on our existing regulations to ensure that operators address the 
unique Arctic OCS operating environment in a manner that is site-
specific and appropriate for Arctic OCS conditions. Specifically, BSEE 
has existing well control requirements under various provisions of the 
Well Control Rule, requirements for diverters and BOPs under Sec.  
250.416 and other sections of the Well Control Rule, and information 
requirements for MODUs under Sec.  250.713 of the Well Control Rule. 
Existing Sec.  250.713 requires operators who plan to use a MODU to 
drill to ``provide information and data to demonstrate the drilling 
unit's capability to perform at the proposed drilling location.'' BSEE 
has training requirements under part 250, subpart O, Well Control and 
Production Safety Training, with additional training requirements under 
Sec.  250.1915, as part of SEMS requirements. Further, Sec.  550.213(g) 
requires submission of a blowout scenario as part of any EP that must 
address issues such as surface intervention and relief well 
capabilities. Likewise, the finalized provisions at Sec.  550.220(c)(3) 
and (4) require Arctic OCS operators to describe in their EPs their 
plans for complying with the SCCE and relief rig requirements. 
Accordingly, BSEE believes that the combination of this rule and 
existing regulations adequately addresses the proposed function of a 
well control plan.
Paragraph (a), Fitness for Service
    Paragraph (a) requires operators to submit a detailed description 
of the environmental, meteorological and oceanic conditions expected at 
the well site(s); how their equipment, materials, and drilling unit 
will be prepared for service in those conditions, and how the drilling 
unit will be in compliance with the requirements of Sec.  250.713. The 
information requested by this proposed section for drilling units is 
not in addition to the requirements of Sec.  250.713, but rather is 
designed to make clear that, to satisfy the fitness requirements of 
Sec.  250.713, operators would need to provide details regarding Alaska 
OCS conditions.
    One commenter recommended the Fitness for Service description 
should illustrate how the drilling unit and its major components can 
perform in the anticipated conditions of the location and season under 
which it is expected to operate.
    BSEE agrees with the comment and notes that the finalized 
provisions at Sec.  250.470(a)(2) address the commenter's concern. 
Paragraph (a)(2) of Sec.  250.470 requires the operator to submit a 
detailed description of how the equipment, materials, and drilling unit 
will be prepared for service in the environmental, meteorological, and 
metocean conditions expected at the well site and how the drilling unit 
will be in compliance with the provisions of existing Sec.  250.713. 
Existing Sec.  250.713 requires the operator to provide information and 
data to demonstrate the drilling unit's capability to perform at the 
proposed drilling location. This information must include the maximum 
environmental and operational conditions that the unit is designed to 
withstand.
    One commenter requested clarification on the contractor's or 
equipment supplier's responsibility for compliance with the 
specifications to be provided under Sec.  250.470(a)(2). The commenter 
questioned whether it is reasonable to hold a party other than the 
applicant for the APD responsible when the selection of the equipment 
and contractor is presumably based on the APD applicant's foreknowledge 
of the conditions that can be reasonably expected during operations.
    BSEE disagrees. Only the party responsible for submitting the APD 
is responsible for satisfying the requirements of Sec.  250.470(a)(2) 
related to the contents of its APD. Whether a contractor is responsible 
for satisfying those requirements depends on the scope of activities 
performed by the contractor (i.e., are they responsible for the APD 
submission?). That said, any party actually performing activities on 
the OCS is responsible for complying with all applicable requirements 
in conducting those activities, including any conditions or terms of 
approved plans and permits. Expectations for anyone performing 
activities on an OCS lease are clearly established in existing 
regulations at paragraph (a) of Sec.  250.107, What must I do to 
protect health, safety, property and the environment?. Responsibilities 
for contractors are further clarified in BSEE's IPD No. 12-07 (August 
15, 2012), ``Issuance of Incident of Non Compliance (INC) to 
Contractors.'' The IPD states BSEE's expectations that all operations 
be performed in a safe and workmanlike manner and that work areas be 
maintained in a safe condition. It reiterates that the primary focus of 
enforcement actions continues to be the lessees' and operators'; 
however contractors performing regulated activities can be held 
responsible for

[[Page 46516]]

compliance with the regulations in their performance of those 
activities. The IPD establishes the factors BSEE will consider in 
determining whether to issue INCs to contractors. Accordingly, the 
scope of a contractor's responsibility for regulatory compliance 
depends upon the scope of activities performed by that contractor.
Paragraph (b), Well-Specific Transition Operations
    Paragraph (b) requires operators to submit with the APD a detailed 
description of all operations necessary in Arctic OCS conditions for 
well-specific transition operations. BSEE is requiring details about 
all of the activities necessary to begin and end drilling operations, 
and to transition between drilling operations and being under way. 
Finally, BSEE is requiring information regarding any specific repair 
and maintenance plans for the drilling unit and equipment associated 
with commencement or completion of drilling operations. All of the 
required information would facilitate BSEE's understanding of an 
operator's program and ensure that the operator complies with lease 
stipulations, EP conditions, and other permitting requirements.
    One commenter recommended that BSEE remove paragraph (b) of Sec.  
250.470 because the information requested covers aspects of operations 
which are regulated by the USCG and do not fall under the jurisdiction 
of BSEE or BOEM. The commenter alternatively requested that, if BSEE 
does not delete the paragraph, BSEE provide clarification as to what 
value will be gained from the information provided, as the agency has 
no authority over the activities on which it seeks information (for 
example, daily maintenance activities on vessels and rigs, including 
diesel engine maintenance routines, greasing routines on cranes, and 
other basic maintenance).
    BSEE disagrees with the commenter regarding removing the noted 
paragraph, but will explain the value to be gained from the required 
information. First, the examples the commenter cites, such as diesel 
engine maintenance routines and ``towing,'' are not required under 
Sec.  250.470(b). Second, the information requested by BSEE under Sec.  
250.470(b) relate directly to operations within the Bureau's authority 
under OCSLA. For example, 43 U.S.C. 1332(6) declares that ``operations 
in the [OCS] should be conducted in a safe manner by well-trained 
personnel using technology, precautions, and techniques sufficient to 
prevent or minimize the likelihood of blowouts, loss of well control, 
fires, spillage, physical obstruction to other users of the waters or 
subsoil and seabed, or other occurrences which may cause damage to the 
environment or to property, or endanger life or health.'' Under 43 
U.S.C. 1334(a), the Secretary has the authority to ``prescribe and 
amend such rules and regulations as [s]he determines to be necessary 
and proper in order to provide for the prevention of waste and 
conservation of the natural resources of the [OCS].'' Section 
1348(b)(2) imposes a duty on lessees and operators to ``maintain all 
operations . . . in compliance with regulations intended to protect 
persons, property, and the environment on the [OCS].'' The information 
requested under Sec.  250.470(b) will help BSEE to fulfill its mandate 
under OCSLA by ensuring that all operators are prepared to conduct 
drilling operations in as safe a manner as possible, especially given 
the challenges and fragility of the Arctic environment.
    Paragraph (b) of Sec.  250.470 requires that the information 
accompanying an operator's APD must include a detailed description of 
all transition operations necessary in Arctic OCS conditions to begin 
and end drilling operations and also requires a detailed description of 
repair and maintenance plans. Although USCG and BSEE share certain 
aspects of regulatory oversight of operations on MODUs, BSEE is not 
requesting information under another agency's jurisdictional authority. 
First, the information described above relates to matters within the 
scope of operations overseen by BSEE rather than USCG (i.e., beginning 
and concluding drilling operations). Further, while the planning 
necessary to assure fulfillment of OCSLA's mandates in connection with 
the identified operations may implicate some activities, such as the 
operation of vessels which are regulated by other Federal agencies, it 
also informs the Department's oversight functions. Such activities can 
result in damage to operational equipment critical to DOI-regulated 
drilling activities, which can in turn compromise, reduce, or force 
modifications to approved operational or safety capabilities and 
equipment. Similarly, they can give rise to changes to approved 
operational schedules, which in the Arctic are particularly critical in 
light of unique considerations arising from the limited open water 
season, the timing of recession and encroachment of sea ice at drill 
sites, marine mammal migrations, and subsistence activities, among 
other considerations. Agency regulations have long recognized the need 
to obtain, through the planning process, information touching on 
activities outside of the Department's direct regulatory jurisdiction 
but which is relevant to the regulation of operations within its 
jurisdiction.\32\ BSEE needs the requested information to ensure safety 
of the rig, operation-critical equipment, and personnel, during 
transitions and while engaged in operations. This information will 
ensure that potential issues with well-related equipment are addressed.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \32\ See, e.g., 30 CFR 550.224 (requiring description in EP of 
the support vessels, offshore vehicles, and aircrafts you will use 
to support your exploration activities, including maps of travel 
routes and methods for transportation of fluids, chemicals, and 
wastes); 550.257 (same for Development and Production Plans (DPPs) 
and Development Operations Coordination Documents (DOCDs)); 550.225 
(requiring description in EP of onshore support facilities to be 
used to provide supply and service support for the proposed 
exploration activities); 550.258 (same for DPPs and DOCDs).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Paragraph (c), Well-Specific Drilling Objectives and Contingency Plans
    Paragraph (c) requires operators to submit ``[w]ell-specific 
drilling objectives, timelines, and updated contingency plans for 
temporary abandonment of the well.'' Whereas the corresponding 
provisions of the finalized IOP regulations and current EP regulations 
at Sec.  550.211 relate more broadly to the objectives and timelines of 
the overall proposed exploratory drilling activities, this provision 
would require an operator to provide ``well-specific'' information at 
the APD stage.
    One commenter requested that BSEE delete Sec.  250.470(c), 
reasoning that the contingency plans for temporary abandonment are out 
of place in this section or at the time in the planning process the 
section addresses. The commenter asserted that the information 
requested is highly sensitive and has little nexus to any of BSEE's 
regulatory authority.
    BSEE disagrees. Temporary abandonment is a well operation and is 
under BSEE authority.\33\ Accordingly, BSEE currently has regulations 
regarding temporary abandonment at Sec. Sec.  250.1721 through 
250.1723. These regulations establish the nationally applicable 
requirements for how to temporarily abandon a well. The finalized 
requirements under Sec.  250.470(c) address Arctic-specific 
considerations related to temporary abandonment, including, among other 
issues, well-specific contingency plans for temporary abandonment due 
to ice encroachment. The information supplied under this section will 
require operators to engage in safety-critical

[[Page 46517]]

advanced planning regarding when and how the operator would temporarily 
abandon the well, and will provide BSEE with advance notice of and an 
opportunity to review those plans. The operator must specifically 
address how the rig would be moved off location; how the well would be 
secured; and how the operator will meet the finalized requirements in 
Sec.  250.720(c) to ensure that equipment left on, near, or in a 
wellbore is protected. This provision requires information that is 
critical for BSEE to have to fully evaluate the APD in accordance with 
its mandates of safety and environmental protection under OCSLA in the 
challenging Arctic environment. The APD includes the specific details 
of how the operator will conduct the operations proposed in the EP 
including, if applicable, contingency plans for temporary well 
abandonment. The APD is submitted at a point in the planning and 
approval process at which the operator will have more complete and 
detailed information specific to the well locations and operations 
being proposed. With regard to the sensitivity of the data, BSEE will 
handle any proprietary or confidential information obtained pursuant to 
this provision in compliance with applicable law, including Sec.  
250.197 and the Trade Secrets Act.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \33\ See, e.g., 43 U.S.C. 1332(6), 1334(a), 1340(g), 1348(b)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Paragraph (d), Weather and Ice Forecasting and Management
    The performance-based provision at paragraph (d) requires an 
operator to submit: A detailed description of its weather and ice 
forecasting capability for all phases of the drilling operation, 
including: ``How [it] will ensure the continuous awareness of potential 
weather and ice hazards at, and during transition between, wells;'' its 
``plans for managing ice hazards and responding to weather events;'' 
and verification that it has the capabilities described in its EP. 
Operators can verify that they have the capabilities described in their 
EP by providing appropriate supporting documents (e.g., contracts) for 
the forecasting and ice management capabilities.
    One commenter requested that BSEE strike Sec.  250.470(d), as the 
information sought in this paragraph is already contained in an 
operator's Critical Operations and Curtailment Plan (COCP) and Ice 
Management Plan and should not be duplicated as part of the APD 
process. The commenter asserted that weather and ice forecasting and 
monitoring are not well site specific and are not well suited as APD 
requirements.
    BSEE disagrees. It is not BSEE's intent to have the operator submit 
information that it has already submitted to BOEM or BSEE under other 
requirements. Rather, the purpose of requiring an operator to submit 
information on ice and weather forecasting with the APD is to allow an 
opportunity, if needed, to update and supplement any information 
already submitted with additional details and information that was not 
available when the information was submitted previously. BSEE notes the 
information requested with an APD is not duplicative, and in addition 
to updating information, the operator is also required to address 
several new considerations, including how they will ensure continuous 
awareness of weather and ice hazards at, and during transition between, 
wells. To the extent that the requested information has been submitted 
previously, such submissions can be relied upon by reference.
Paragraph (e), Relief Rig Plan
    Paragraph (e) requires operators to provide, with their APD, 
information concerning how they will comply with the relief rig 
requirements of Sec.  250.472. No comments were received on this 
provision, and it is finalized as proposed. See below in this Section 
for the discussion of comments on Sec.  250.472 for BSEE's response to 
comments related to relief rig requirements.
Paragraph (f), SCCE Capabilities
    Paragraph (f) requires operators provide with their APD a statement 
that the operator has a contract with a provider for SCCE, which is 
capable of controlling and/or containing a WCD as described in the 
operator's BOEM approved EP, when proposing to use a MODU to conduct 
exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS. The information 
requirements of paragraph (f) include:
    1. A detailed description of the operator's or its contractor's 
SCCE capabilities. The description must include operating assumptions 
and limitations and information demonstrating that the operator would 
have access to and the ability to deploy such equipment necessary to 
stop or capture the flow of an out of control well. This description 
would allow BSEE to verify the location and availability of this 
equipment for compliance with Sec.  250.471. This section also requires 
a detailed description of the operator's ability to evaluate the 
performance of the well design to determine how it can achieve full 
shut-in without having reservoir fluids discharged in the environment.
    2. An inventory of the equipment, supplies, and services the 
operator owns or has a contract for locally and regionally, including 
the identification of each supplier. This information is important 
because BSEE would need to verify the existence, condition, and 
location of the equipment that the operator describes in its plans.
    3. Where SCCE capabilities are obtained through contracting, proof 
of contracts or membership agreements with cooperatives, service 
providers, or other contractors, including information demonstrating 
the availability of the personnel and/or equipment on a 24-hour per day 
basis during operations below the surface casing.
    4. A description of the procedures for inspecting, testing, and 
maintaining SCCE. SCCE is intended to be standby equipment. This 
provision allows BSEE to verify that the operator, or contractor, has 
procedures in place for inspecting, testing, and maintaining the 
equipment so that it would be ready for use, if necessary. Operators 
are already required under existing regulations at Sec.  250.1916 to 
retain the information requested by this new paragraph. The new 
provision requires that operators who propose to conduct exploratory 
drilling on the Arctic OCS submit this information in conjunction with 
their APD.
    5. A description of the operator's plan to demonstrate that 
personnel are trained to deploy and operate the equipment and that 
these personnel would maintain ongoing proficiency in source control 
operations. Standby crews who are not used regularly to perform their 
dedicated functions would not develop the necessary skills unless they 
are properly trained, and would not maintain those skills unless that 
training is reinforced by practice. It is therefore imperative that the 
operator demonstrate that these personnel have a plan for acquiring, 
and the ability to maintain, the proficiency necessary to respond when 
called upon. This requirement would allow BSEE to review those plans 
and verify that the proficiencies have been acquired and would be 
maintained.
    One commenter suggests that the final rule require operators to 
submit a detailed plan demonstrating their ability to fully respond to 
a blowout within three days.
    BSEE notes the final rule does require all operators conducting 
exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS to have in place 
response plans demonstrating their ability to fully respond to a 
blowout, beginning within 24 hours after loss of well control. 
Specifically, revised Sec.  250.471(a) requires that a capping stack be 
available and positioned to arrive at the

[[Page 46518]]

well within 24 hours after a loss of well control, and a cap and flow 
system and a containment dome be positioned to ensure they will arrive 
at the well location within 7 days after a loss of well control. 
Revised Sec.  250.472 requires that any time the operator is drilling 
below or working below the surface casing it must have access to a 
relief rig, positioned so that it can arrive on site, drill a relief 
well, kill and abandon the original well, and abandon the relief well 
prior to expected seasonal ice encroachment at the drill site, but no 
later than 45 days after the loss of well control. Paragraphs (c)(3) 
and (4) of Sec.  550.220 require operators to describe in their EP how 
they will comply with these requirements, and Sec.  250.470(e) and (f) 
impose similar requirements for APDs. When added to existing 
regulations (e.g., Sec.  550.213(g)), BSEE has determined that these 
provisions will provide a reasonable level of environmental protection. 
BSEE does not agree that a uniform prescriptive three-day response plan 
is necessary or appropriate. There are many specific requirements in 
the final rule that will ensure that operators have access to equipment 
to quickly respond to losses of well control. Such responses will 
likely depend upon the specific facts and circumstances related to the 
loss of well control incident at hand and will not benefit from the 
suggested uniform requirement for a three-day response plan.
    One commenter suggests changing the phrasing in Sec.  250.470(f)(2) 
from ``local and regional'' in regards to the availability of SCCE, 
supplies, and services, to ``in-region'' and ``out-of-region'' to match 
common usage in Alaska (see 18 AAC 75.495) and to match oil spill 
response industry standard terminology.
    BSEE disagrees. The provision at Sec.  250.470(f)(2) ensures that 
the operator has the access to required SCCE within the timeframes 
established in Sec.  250.471. The terms ``local and regional'' are used 
to reinforce that the equipment needs to be in proximate location to 
meet those standards. BSEE declines to adopt terms of art that may be 
perceived to have different meanings or connotations.
    One commenter requested that BSEE remove Sec.  250.470(f). The 
commenter asserted that operators should not have to provide this 
information in the context of each individual APD, as the information 
requested in paragraph (f) is largely duplicative of information 
provided elsewhere during the regulatory process. The commenter 
specifically points to information requested for the EP and IOP.
    BSEE disagrees. As discussed above, the requirements of this 
section, or any provision of Sec.  250.470, are not intended to require 
operators to resubmit information already submitted to BOEM or BSEE. 
Rather, the operator is expected to update and supplement the 
information already submitted and provide more specific or detailed 
information that was not available when it submitted information for 
the IOP and EP. To the extent that the operator intends to rely on 
information already submitted in previously approved submissions, it 
can do so by reference.
Paragraph (g), API RP 2N, Third Edition
    Paragraph (g) requires that operators explain how they utilized API 
RP 2N, Third Edition, in planning their Arctic OCS exploratory drilling 
operations. Since the requirements of this final rule are limited only 
to exploratory drilling operations, operators would not be expected to 
provide an explanation of how they utilized the entire API RP 2N, Third 
Edition. This performance-based requirement is limited to those 
portions of that document that are specifically relevant for 
exploratory drilling operations. BSEE excludes the following sections 
of API RP 2N, Third Edition, from incorporation:
    1. Sections 6.6.3 through 6.6.4;
    2. The foundation recommendations in Section 8.4;
    3. Section 9.6;
    4. The recommendations for permanently moored systems in Section 
9.7;
    5. The recommendations for pile foundations in Section 9.10;
    6. Section 12;
    7. Section 13.2.1;
    8. Sections 13.8.1.1, 13.8.2.1, 13.8.2.2, 13.8.2.4 through 
13.8.2.7;
    9. Sections 13.9.1, 13.9.2, 13.9.4 through 13.9.8;
    10. Sections 14 through 16; and
    11. Section 18.
    One commenter supported the incorporation of API RP 2N Third 
Edition, but disagreed with the exclusion of three sections. The 
commenter first opposed the exclusion of API RP 2N clauses 6.6.3 (Ice 
Gouge) and 6.6.4 (Strudel Scours). The commenter suggests BSEE should 
consider the possibility of not being able to permanently plug the well 
before the next open water season, and that by having ice gouge 
statistics it would also be possible to calculate the actual impact 
risk to a well head. The commenter also questioned excluding section 
13.2.1 (Design Philosophy) and recommended BSEE include a statement 
that when there is overlap between the requirements in API RP 2N Third 
Edition and BSEE and/or USCG regulations, the regulatory requirements 
have precedence.
    BSEE carefully considered which sections of API RP 2N Third Edition 
to incorporate in this rulemaking and determined that certain portions 
of API RP 2N are not relevant to the exploration stage. Regarding the 
commenter's first concern with exempting API RP 2N sections 6.6.3 and 
6.6.4, the regulations finalized at Sec.  250.470(c) directly address 
protecting equipment left on, near, or in a wellbore, including 
protecting the well head and preventing or mitigating threats to the 
down-hole integrity of the well and well plugs. These regulations are 
tailored specifically to exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic 
OCS from MODUs and jack-up rigs, and BSEE determined that sections 
6.6.3 and 6.6.4 were therefore not appropriate for incorporation. The 
commenter's second concern is addressed in Sec.  250.470(g), which 
requires an operator to comply with the incorporated requirements of 
API RP 2N ``Where it does not conflict with other requirements of this 
subpart''.
    One commenter also recommended including API RP 2N Third Edition 
sections 6.6.3 and 6.6.4, as there is evidence of ice gouging in 
several locations within the Arctic OCS, which would impact a multi-
year drilling program. The commenter asserted that ice gouging should 
be considered for subsea structures likely to be left over winter, and 
that strudel scours are widespread along coastal river mouths and 
should be surveyed as part of planning for an exploratory drilling 
program in state waters. The commenter also recommended that sections 
13.9.6 (Inspection and Maintenance), 13.9.7 (Planning and Operations), 
and 13.9.8 (Ice Management Plan) be included in the final rule, as they 
appear to provide a better basis for safe operation than the proposed 
regulations. The commenter also asked BSEE to consider retaining 
section 15 (Topsides), as there are a number of issues surrounding 
winterization of topside structures not under the authority of the 
USCG, such as wind breaks and insulation of manned work spaces and 
walkways, and winterization of drilling hydraulics and meters.
    BSEE disagrees. Sections 6.6.3 and 6.6.4 were excluded because they 
address different types of conditions for ice gouging and/or scouring 
than are anticipated to occur during the Arctic OCS open water drilling 
season. To the extent the commenter is concerned about facilities 
remaining on the seabed in connection with multi-year drilling

[[Page 46519]]

programs, Sec. Sec.  250.720(c) and 250.470(c) directly address these 
issues. BSEE also notes that under its OCSLA authority, it does not 
have jurisdiction over well control operations on State submerged 
lands. BSEE has authority under the CWA over oil spill response plans 
related to operations seaward of the coastline, including on state 
submerged lands. 33 U.S.C. 1321(j)(5); E.O. 12777; 30 CFR part 254, 
subpart D. In addition, existing BSEE regulations address drilling in 
frontier areas and include specific requirements related to Arctic OCS 
conditions, such as ice-scour areas and subfreezing conditions. 
Specifically, existing Sec.  250.451(h) requires that subsea BOP 
systems used in an ice-scour area must be installed in a well cellar 
that is deep enough to ensure that the top of the stack is below the 
deepest probable ice-scour depth.
    Regarding the commenter's recommendation to include sections 13.9.6 
through 13.9.8, and section 15, existing Sec.  250.417(c) addresses 
drilling operations in frontier areas and includes provisions for a 
contingency plan to include design and operating limitations of the 
drilling unit where the operator must identify the actions necessary to 
maintain safety and prevent damage to the environment. Additionally, 
under existing Sec.  250.418(f), for drilling operations in areas 
subject to subfreezing conditions, operators are required to include in 
their APD evidence that the drilling equipment, BOP systems and 
components, diverter systems, and other associated equipment and 
materials are suitable for operating under such conditions. 
Accordingly, BSEE believes that the combination of this rule and 
existing regulations adequately addresses the commenter's concerns.
    One commenter generally agreed with the use of API RP 2N Third 
Edition, but proposed BSEE also require the operator to document its 
overall winterization philosophy, as well as specific winterization 
requirements for MODU drilling systems and equipment.
    BSEE disagrees with the commenter's proposal, as the concerns are 
already addressed in existing rules and with this rulemaking. Although 
it is not entirely clear what the commenter means by ``overall 
winterization philosophy'', existing SEMS requirements at Sec. Sec.  
250.1901 through 250.1933 require the operator to have a SEMS program 
in place that identifies, addresses and manages safety, environmental 
hazards and impacts during all phases of drilling operations. 
Additionally, the finalized revisions to Sec.  250.1920 require an 
annual SEMS audit for exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic 
OCS. Regarding specific winterization requirements for MODU drilling 
system and equipment, BSEE has determined the finalized provisions at 
Sec.  250.473, which requires operators to ensure that equipment and 
materials are rated or de-rated for service under conditions that can 
reasonably be expected during operations, and also utilize measures to 
address human factors associated with weather conditions that can be 
reasonably expected while operating on the Arctic OCS, ensure that 
these issues are adequately addressed.
    One commenter suggests that the requirements to comply with API RP 
2N Third Edition be replaced with a requirement to meet relevant and 
applicable class rules from a classification society accepted by the 
IACS. The commenter also suggests that BSEE replace the requirement for 
the MODU to meet Ice Class 3 standards with a requirement that the MODU 
be suitably classed to perform expected activities in the area of 
operations and the seasonal conditions that are expected to be 
encountered.
    BSEE disagrees. API RP 2N Third Edition specifically addresses oil 
and gas activities in the Arctic and, although IACS has relevant and 
applicable class rules, we have determined the incorporation by 
reference of applicable provisions of RP 2N Third Edition is 
appropriate. BSEE recognizes that, when applied to MODUs, many of the 
structural criteria of API RP 2N Third Edition are regulated by the 
USCG and may be covered by Class requirements for marine structures. 
Classification is a determination made by private organizations that a 
vessel has been constructed and maintained in compliance with industry 
standards to be fit for a particular service.
    Regarding the commenter's concern that the MODU be required to meet 
Ice Class 3 standards, we note that although the preamble to the NPRM 
did mention Ice Class 3 (see 80 FR at 9938) we did not propose a 
regulatory requirement for MODUs to meet specific ice class 
requirements. BSEE recognizes that MODUs are designed for a specific 
set of criteria or are classed for a specific environment, water depth, 
and drilling capacity which, in combination, establishes the design 
limits of the MODU. MODUs have not traditionally been designed and/or 
classed specifically for the environmental conditions found in the 
Arctic region. It is therefore necessary, if MODUs are to be considered 
for exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS, to have in place criteria 
for the assessment of the site and the MODU for the uniquely 
challenging operating conditions. API RP 2N Third Edition is the 
current industry standard that provides the criteria for site and MODU 
assessment. Even if the MODU is reclassified or redesigned for Arctic 
conditions, operators will still need to perform an assessment for the 
specific anticipated environmental conditions during the planned window 
of operations of the MODU on the Arctic OCS, in compliance with the 
finalized APD requirements of Sec.  250.470. Equipment on the MODU used 
to support the drilling operations should also be evaluated for 
suitability for Arctic conditions, but should be evaluated using the 
appropriate standards for equipment operating in the Arctic 
environment, not a structural design standard for the Arctic region. 
BSEE has determined that its selected approach is preferable to both of 
the alternatives proposed by the commenter.
    One commenter stated that BSEE should honor Clause 1 of API RP 2N 
Third Edition, which provides that this RP does not apply to MODUs. The 
commenter cautions that the current approach of Sec.  250.470(g), even 
with exemptions, requires use of API RP 2N Third Edition in situations 
for which it was not intended.
    BSEE disagrees with the commenter's interpretation of the 
applicability of API RP 2N Third Edition. While the commenter is 
correct that API RP 2N Third Edition does not apply specifically to 
MODUs, the procedures relating to ice actions and ice management 
contained in the standards are applicable to the assessment of such 
units. Additionally, API RP 2N Third Edition does not specifically 
preclude the application of appropriate provisions of the document to 
MODUs. Accordingly, Sec.  250.470(g) calls upon the operator to provide 
a description of how it will utilize the best practices set forth in 
API RP 2N. Within that structure, operators have the inherent ability 
to address the inapplicability of any particular provisions to their 
operations.
What are the requirements for Arctic OCS source control and 
containment? (Sec.  250.471)
    The finalized requirements at Sec.  250.471 are designed to ensure 
that each operator using a MODU and conducting exploratory drilling on 
the Arctic OCS will have access to, and can promptly and effectively 
deploy and operate, surface and subsea control and containment 
equipment in the event of a loss of well control. In particular, BSEE 
is requiring that each operator have the ability, in the event of a 
loss of well control, to cap the well and to capture, contain, and 
process or

[[Page 46520]]

properly dispose of any fluids escaping from the well. All SCCE must be 
mobilized (i.e., begin transit) to the well immediately upon a loss of 
well control. The rule specifically provides that the SCCE is only 
necessary when drilling below or working below the surface casing.
    Several comments were received on this section. As discussed in 
Section IV.A, Summary of Key Changes from the NPRM, BSEE is revising 
Sec.  250.471(a) to clearly state that the operator must have access to 
SCCE equipment capable of ``stopping or capturing the flow of an out-
of-control well''. We are also adding paragraph (i) of Sec.  250.471 to 
clarify when an operator is requesting approval of alternate compliance 
measures to the SCCE requirements under the provisions of Sec.  
250.141, the operator will need to demonstrate that the proposed 
alternate compliance measure provides a level of safety and 
environmental protection that meets or exceeds that required by BSEE 
regulations, including demonstrating that the alternate compliance 
measure will be capable of stopping or capturing the flow of an out-of-
control well. These revisions are in response to commenters' concerns 
that the language as originally proposed did not clearly state a 
performance standard. All other provisions of Sec.  250.471 are 
finalized as proposed.
    Several commenters generally support the provisions. One commenter 
strongly supported the finalized requirements of Sec.  250.471, but 
noted for the deployment of technologies such as a capping stack, cap 
and flow system and a containment dome, there are significant 
``response gaps'': Periods in which a particular response tactic could 
be expected to be ineffective or impossible to deploy based on historic 
environmental conditions. In a study funded by BSEE, it was found that 
dispersants, in-situ burning, and mechanical recovery were viable 
options on the Arctic OCS only 82 percent, 66 percent, and 57 percent 
of the time, respectively, even during the summer months. During the 
winter months, the only viable option would be in-situ burning. The 
commenter argued that, since oil spill response methods are either only 
sporadically available or not proven to be reliable in Arctic 
conditions, emphasizing and requiring source control and containment is 
absolutely critical.
    BSEE agrees that effective source control and subsea containment 
equipment is a critical response capability on the Arctic OCS. Oil 
spill response countermeasures used to mitigate spills on the surface 
of the water are always subject to limitations that may arise due to 
adverse weather and poor on-scene operating conditions. These concerns 
are heightened under Arctic OCS conditions. The best way to minimize 
the effects of spilled oil is to prevent it from entering the water in 
the first place, which is why BSEE agrees that prompt access to SCCE is 
a critical part in reducing the impacts of a spill and is requiring 
such equipment and capabilities in Sec.  250.471.
    Several commenters recommend that the detailed requirements for 
source control and containment be removed from the regulations and 
replaced with performance-based requirements. One of the commenters 
cautions that requiring specific types of equipment to respond to a 
loss of well control incident is ineffective and inefficient since it 
is based upon the false assumption that a loss of well control incident 
in the shallow waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas would be the 
same as a deep water well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Another of the 
commenters specifically suggests that the regulations should allow for 
a specific type of response to a loss of well control -- the diversion 
of wellbore fluids to a flare buoy surrounded by containment boom 
located a safe distance from other vessels.
    BSEE recognizes that operators need to have some flexibility to 
select the technology that is best suited to planned operations and 
that alternative technologies may be developed that offer equal or more 
protection to personnel and the environment than existing technology. 
We believe the technologies identified in this provision represent the 
optimal approach to well control capabilities available for the Arctic 
OCS. However, BSEE acknowledges that it cannot always predict 
technological developments made by industry. Therefore, we have revised 
the proposed language at Sec.  250.471(a) to clarify the performance 
standard required by this provision: That the operator must have access 
to SCCE that is capable of stopping or capturing the flow of an out-of-
control well. Additionally, as discussed in Sections III.D and IV.A, we 
have added a paragraph (i) of Sec.  250.471 to clearly state that, when 
an operator is requesting approval of alternate procedures or equipment 
to the SCCE requirements under the provisions of Sec.  250.141, the 
operator must demonstrate that the proposed alternate procedures or 
equipment provides a level of safety and environmental protection that 
meets or exceeds that required by BSEE regulations, including 
demonstrating that the alternate procedures or equipment will be 
capable of stopping or capturing the flow of an out-of-control well.
    In addition, with respect to the ability of operators to utilize 
alternative technology or procedures, BSEE notes these regulations are 
intended to ensure that operators have a coordinated and redundant 
system to provide for adequate safety in exploratory drilling 
operations on the Arctic OCS. Section 250.471 as finalized contemplates 
a sequential process based on operator proposals for dealing with 
Arctic challenges in a risked based manner. In the event of a well 
control event and failure of the BOP, the first option is to deploy a 
capping stack. The capping stack is the most immediately deployable 
equipment of the SCCE options. If the capping stack is not successful, 
the cap and flow system is the next option. If these options are not 
deployable, or fail to stop the flow, the containment dome system must 
be deployed to control the flow during the time it takes the well to 
bridge off or the relief well to be drilled. Each of these options has 
a high probability of success, but none is guaranteed to be deployable 
or successful in all situations. BSEE determined that the finalized 
provisions provide for the necessary redundancy and sequencing of the 
responses, based on the time necessary to deploy, and therefore provide 
sufficient safety and environmental protection to allow for exploratory 
drilling on the Arctic OCS.
    One commenter asserted that the OPA already confers oil spill 
preparedness and response authority to the operator, USCG and EPA, as 
well as BSEE through the subject Act and E.O. The commenter cautions 
that introducing an additional and redundant layer of regulation by 
BSEE has the potential to lead to confusion and administrative 
conflicts.
    We disagree. BSEE has authority to implement the SCCE requirements 
under OCSLA. BSEE further disagrees that the finalized requirements of 
Sec.  250.471 add a redundant layer of regulation that will lead to 
administrative conflicts. The regulation's focus on equipment related 
to well control and containment (i.e., preventing release of oil into 
the environment) complements, rather than conflicts with, the focus on 
spill response (i.e., cleaning up oil that has been released into the 
environment) and planning under BSEE's OPA regulations, creating a 
comprehensive and holistic approach to the relevant issues.
    Under OCSLA, BSEE is responsible for implementing environmental 
safeguards to ensure that oil and gas

[[Page 46521]]

exploration and production activities on the OCS are conducted in a 
manner which minimizes damage to the environment and dangers to life or 
health, provides for the conservation of the natural resources of the 
OCS, and will not be unduly harmful to aquatic life in the area, result 
in pollution, create hazardous or unsafe conditions, or unreasonably 
interfere with other uses of the area.\34\ These regulations allow BSEE 
to fulfill this obligation by requiring equipment that is fundamental 
to safe and responsible operations on the Arctic OCS. In that 
environment, existing infrastructure is sparse, the geography and 
logistics of bringing equipment and resources into the region is 
challenging, and the time available to mount response operations is 
limited by changing weather and ice conditions, particularly at the end 
of the drilling season. BSEE's OCSLA regulations in Part 250 have long 
addressed issues surrounding source control equipment and capabilities 
(see, e.g., Sec. Sec.  250.401, 250.440 through 250.451, 250.515 
through 250.517). BSEE has determined that the SCCE requirements of 
Sec.  250.471 are necessary and appropriate to account for Arctic OCS 
conditions and fall squarely within its authority under OCSLA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \34\ See, e.g., 43 U.S.C. 1332(3), 1332(6), 1334(a), 1340(g), 
1348(b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    These SCCE regulations are needed because exploratory drilling 
operations on the Arctic OCS are distinct from operations on any other 
part of the OCS. The logistics and transit times necessary to bring 
critical equipment to bear in the event of a loss of well control, 
require the operator to plan for and be prepared for contingencies that 
would be more straightforward to address in other areas of the OCS. 
Moreover, there is a limited ability in the Arctic region to summon 
additional source control and containment resources. Accordingly, 
operators working there must plan for complexities not confronted 
elsewhere. At some level, redundancy of equipment response options is 
both appropriate and necessary in this context, where the redundancies 
that exist as a matter of course in an environment like the Gulf of 
Mexico are not present. Rather than adding a redundant layer of 
regulation, these requirements are specifically geared towards the 
necessities of operating in this uniquely challenging and fragile 
environment.
    Finally, when writing the rule, BSEE consulted with a number of 
agencies, including the USCG and the EPA. Moreover, Federal agencies 
communicate on a regular basis about issues over which they have 
intersecting authority. Thus, once this rule is in place, BSEE will 
continue to communicate with other agencies to maximize efficiencies 
and minimize or eliminate potential conflicts.
    Two commenters noted the importance of setting limits on the 
continued drilling of any well relying on a particular SCCE if a 
blowout occurs in connection with another operation relying on the same 
SCCE as a result of mutual aid agreements or cooperatives formed to 
share SCCE. The commenters note that similar mutual aid agreements and 
cooperatives have already been formed by Arctic operators to share 
spill response resources, well capping equipment, and facilities. The 
commenter provides the example that, if four wells are being drilled 
and all four rely on the same SCCE package, if one well has a blowout 
then the other three wells should be suspended and safely secured while 
the SCCE is committed to the blowout response.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter and concludes that this issue is 
addressed in the performance standard finalized at Sec.  250.471(a), as 
incorporated into the operator's approved EP (Sec.  550.220(c)(3)) and 
APD (Sec.  250.470(f)). An operator is required to have access to the 
appropriate SCCE positioned to ensure it will arrive at the well 
location within a prescribed time limit. This may necessitate halting 
continued drilling at other well locations if the equipment is being 
used at the site of the spill in a manner that would preclude the 
equipment from being accessible for use in a potential well control 
event at the other well location within the prescribed time limits.
    One commenter suggests the final rule should adequately describe 
technical findings or actual application success rates of containment 
dome systems used in OCS waters of less than 300 feet, which is 
commonly found in Alaska's near shore and OCS waters. The commenter 
questioned whether containment domes have ever safely been deployed in 
shallow water under a jack-up rig, where leg placement may present 
hazards when setting the containment dome.
    BSEE notes that there has been no need to deploy a containment dome 
since the Macondo Well blowout in April of 2010.\35\ Containment domes 
have been proposed for Arctic shallow water operations and have been 
successfully deployed and function tested on multiple occasions. A 
containment dome is intended to minimize or eliminate the release of 
oil to the environment in the event that the capping stack or the cap 
and flow system does not stop an uncontrolled flow. The use of a 
containment dome is the only tool proposed by an operator to date that 
has been shown to contain the flow of a well until the well bridges off 
or the relief well is finished and the well is plugged. BSEE again 
notes the revision to Sec.  250.471(i) clarifying the performance 
standard an operator may show for approval of alternative procedures. 
BSEE may approve innovative methods to contain the flow of oil, in the 
event that a capping stack, cap and flow system, containment dome or 
other method of subsea intervention has failed to stop an uncontrolled 
flow (because of damage to the wellhead, equipment failure, or some 
other reason), until the relief well can be completed. This 
performance-based equivalency allows BSEE the flexibility to evaluate 
well control and containment equipment and devices that may be 
developed and deployed in the future.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \35\ After the blowout at the Macondo well on April 20, 2010, 
the out-of-control well flowed for 87 days until a capping stack was 
installed on July 12, 2010. On July 15, 2010, it was determined that 
the flow from the well had stopped. Permanently killing the well 
required the drilling of a relief well, which was completed on 
September 16, 2010.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter suggests that BSEE remove the statement indicating 
that BSEE will direct any emergency response operations, reasoning that 
it fails to consider interfaces with the current role of the USCG.
    BSEE disagrees with removing this statement. As previously 
described, OCSLA requires that BSEE ensure that OCS oil and gas 
operations minimize damage to the environment and conserve the natural 
resources of the OCS. Under OCSLA, BSEE also ensures that OCS oil and 
gas operations do not result in pollution, create hazardous or unsafe 
conditions, or unreasonably interfere with other uses of the area.
    The deployment of SCCE is a well control measure designed to 
maintain, or regain, control over a subsea well. The deployment of SCCE 
will permit an operator to ensure the integrity of an OCS wellbore and 
maintain control over well pressure and well fluids. For example, a 
timely deployed capping stack will prevent the release of fluids into 
the environment in the cap and flow mode. Maintaining or regaining this 
type of well control ultimately promotes OCS safety, protects the 
environment, and conserves the natural resources of the OCS. Thus, 
these regulations implement OCSLA's authorization for BSEE to prescribe 
regulations concerning oil and gas operations on the OCS.

[[Page 46522]]

    In addition to this OCSLA authority, the President delegated to the 
Secretary the OPA authority under CWA Section 311(j)(1)(C) concerning 
``establishing procedures, methods, and equipment and other 
requirements for equipment to prevent and to contain discharges of oil 
and hazardous substances from . . . offshore facilities, including 
associated pipelines . . . .'' \36\ These regulations, including those 
regarding SCCE, implement the Secretary's OPA authority with respect to 
equipment, procedures, and methods that prevent and contain oil 
discharges from offshore facilities.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \36\ Executive Order 12777, sec. 2(b)(3), 56 FR 54757 (Oct. 18, 
1991).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    BSEE's process for interfacing with the USCG with respect to 
directing well control measures from offshore facilities during a well 
control event is clearly described and has been carefully coordinated 
in BSEE/USCG MOA: OCS-03, Oil Discharge Planning, Preparedness, and 
Response (April 3, 2012). MOA: OCS-03 states ``the Regional Supervisor 
or designated individual will direct measures to abate (stop and/or 
minimize) sources of pollution from BSEE-regulated offshore facilities 
to ensure minimal release of oil and to prevent unwarranted shutdown of 
unaffected production and pipeline systems. However, if an oil 
discharge poses a serious threat to public health, welfare, or the 
environment, in accordance with [OPA], the Federal on Scene Coordinator 
(FOSC) may take action for effective and immediate removal of a 
discharge and to ensure mitigation or prevention of a substantial 
threat of a discharge of oil.'' The description of this inter-agency 
process is ultimately consistent with the National Oil and Hazardous 
Substances Pollution Contingency Plan's (NCP) requirement that 
``[r]esponse actions to remove discharges originating from operations 
conducted subject to [OCSLA] [must] be in accordance with the NCP.'' 
\37\ It is also consistent with the NCP that vests in the EPA or USCG 
On-Scene Coordinator the authority to direct all spill response 
actions. (40 CFR 300.135). Notwithstanding the NCP's clear 
establishment of OSC authority with respect to directing spill response 
actions, OPA and the NCP do not generally preempt all other relevant 
legal authorities. As EPA explained in 1994: ``Section 311(c)(1) of the 
CWA, as amended by the OPA, gives the OSC authority to `direct or 
monitor all Federal, State, and private actions to remove a discharge.' 
. . . Congress explicitly provided for limited preemption only for 
contracting and employment laws and this limited preemption applies 
only when a discharge poses a substantial threat to the public health 
or welfare of the U.S. There is no express indication that Congress 
intended to preempt all Federal and State requirements with respect to 
other discharges.'' \38\ BSEE's authority concerning SCCE is consistent 
with the complementary nature of the NCP in that the OSC has the 
authority to direct and monitor spill response actions while not 
preempting all other relevant legal authorities.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \37\ 40 CFR 300.125(e).
    \38\ 1994 final revisions to NCP, 59 FR 47389-90 (Sept. 15, 
1994).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter recommended the final rule include a provision 
requiring the operator to submit an SCCE Emergency Plan as part of the 
part 550 EP, subject to the public review requirements. The commenter 
suggests that the SCCE Emergency Plan should include various 
information, including: The technical and operating specifications of 
the equipment; standard operating procedures and schedules for testing, 
operation, inspection, maintenance and repair; and plans for storage, 
transportation to the well, and deployment. The commenter asserted that 
written plans provide consistent standard operating procedures for 
company staff that change over time, provide an excellent reference 
during an emergency response, and serve as an excellent training tool.
    BOEM and BSEE agree with the commenter on the importance of 
awareness of SCCE assets and response capabilities and planning for 
their maintenance, deployment, and use. However we do not agree with 
the need for a specialized SCCE Emergency Plan as part of an operator's 
EP. Paragraphs (a) and (c) of Sec.  550.220 already require that an 
operator's EP describe their emergency plans to respond to a fire, 
explosion, personnel evacuation, or loss of well control, among other 
things, as well as provide a general description of the operator's SCCE 
capabilities. The finalized provisions of Sec. Sec.  250.471 and 
250.470(f) also provide for sufficient BSEE oversight of the operator's 
SCCE capabilities to account for any staff changes over time, including 
requirements for the operator to: Detail the SCCE and the contractor's 
SCCE capabilities, include descriptions of all SCCE, and describe 
procedures for inspection/testing of SCCE.
Paragraph (a), Drilling Below or Working Below the Surface Casing
    Paragraph (a) requires that the operator, when using a MODU to 
drill below or work below the surface casing, have access to a capping 
stack positioned to arrive at the well within 24 hours after a loss of 
well control, and a cap and flow system and a containment dome 
positioned to arrive at the well within 7 days after a loss of well 
control.
    Several commenters recommend that the cap-and-flow system and 
containment dome should be required to arrive within three days, as the 
quicker the cap-and-flow system and containment dome are available and 
on-site, the faster any blowout may be controlled.
    BSEE appreciates the commenters' concern for rapid deployment of 
the cap-and-flow system and containment dome as a means to control any 
blowout as quickly as possible, and encourages operators to deploy 
source control and containment assets without undue delay. However, 
BSEE has decided to finalize this provision with the 7-day timeframe 
for arrival after the loss of well control. The 7-day timeframe allows 
for the appropriate arrival of all the SCCE response equipment and 
responders and facilitates a staged response during the early hours of 
an event. The cap-and-flow system and containment dome are elements of 
a systematic approach to the SCCE deployment, and the 7-day requirement 
provides for the arrival of the system after the operator has had time 
to deploy and test the capping stack and to complete other more 
immediate intervention options.
    Several commenters recommend BSEE not impose timeframes for the 
deployment of SCCE and instead allow for performance-based requirements 
using a risk-based approach. One commenter suggests that the 
positioning of SCCE assets be determined on a case-by-case basis that 
takes into account any unique aspects of an operator's program and the 
well site, and that these tailored mobilization and operational 
timelines would be best captured in an operator's EP. Another of the 
commenters specifically urges consideration of the merits of a bottom-
founded rig with a pre-installed capping device, which can cap a well 
in a matter of minutes or hours.
    We note the final rule does not prohibit the use of pre-positioned 
capping stacks when operating a jack-up rig. To clarify this, we have 
added text to explicitly add a pre-positioned capping stack to the 
definition of

[[Page 46523]]

``Capping Stack'' in Sec.  250.105. We also note that Sec.  
550.220(c)(3) does contemplate a description of the operator's SCCE 
capabilities and plans for compliance in the EP.
    In response to commenters' request for a revised timeframe 
determined either by the use of a pre-positioned capping stack or on a 
case-by-case basis, BSEE has determined the requirements of this 
section appropriately implement a coordinated redundant system to 
provide adequate safety, and declines to modify the rule as suggested. 
The timeframes implemented in Sec.  250.471 establish a sequential 
process based on operator proposals for dealing with Arctic challenges 
in a risk-based manner. In the event of a well control incident, the 
first option is to deploy a capping stack. The capping stack is the 
most immediately deployable of the SCCE options. If the capping stack 
is not successful, the cap and flow system is the next option. If these 
options are not deployable, or fail to stop the flow, the containment 
system must be deployed to contain the flow from the well during the 
time it takes the well to bridge off or the relief well to be drilled. 
Each of these options has a high probability of success, but none is 
guaranteed to be deployable or successful in all situations. The 
redundancy and sequencing of the responses, based on the time necessary 
to deploy and the increasing complexity, provides sufficient safety in 
a reasonable and appropriate framework. The 7-day timeframe for 
deployment of SCCE is the maximum timeframe allowed and, if an operator 
can deploy appropriate equipment in under 7 days, that is permissible 
and encouraged to the extent it may enhance the response. If an 
operator determines alternate procedures or equipment will provide for 
equal or better levels of protection, as discussed earlier, an operator 
may submit a request under existing Sec.  250.141, and such procedures 
may be approved on a case-by-case basis.
    Several commenters oppose the specific requirement for timely 
access to a containment dome, asserting that a performance-based 
requirement would be more appropriate. Commenters assert that a 
containment dome poses serious problems and risks in shallow water, and 
may only be compatible with a narrow range of drilling approaches. One 
commenter argued that future and existing technologies, including 
subsea shut-in devices, are being pursued to provide better outcomes in 
the highly unlikely event of a well control incident in Arctic 
conditions, and that there is no sound technical basis for including a 
containment dome as a specific requirement.
    BSEE disagrees. The containment dome is intended to immediately 
contain oil that would otherwise be discharged into the environment in 
the event that the capping stack or any other method of subsea 
intervention does not stop an uncontrolled flow. The use of a 
containment dome is the only tool proposed by an operator to date that 
has been shown to contain the flow of a well following failure of such 
control interventions until the well bridges off or the relief well is 
finished and the well is plugged. As described above, Sec.  250.141 and 
this final rule at Sec.  250.471(i) allows for the District Manager or 
Regional Supervisor to approve the use of alternate procedures or 
equipment provided the operator can show the technology will meet or 
exceed the level of safety and environmental protection provided by the 
containment dome. The rule, therefore, specifically provides that BSEE 
may approve innovative methods to contain the flow of oil, in the event 
that a capping stack or other method of subsea intervention has failed 
to stop an uncontrolled flow (because of damage to the wellhead, 
equipment failure, or some other reason), until the relief well can be 
completed. This performance-based equivalency allows BSEE the 
flexibility to evaluate well control and containment equipment and 
devices that may be developed and deployed in the future.
    One commenter requested that, if BSEE does not eliminate the 
containment dome requirement entirely, the regulations should specify 
that, when a jack-up rig is used with a subsurface BOP and a 
prepositioned capping device, a containment dome is not required. The 
commenter also asserted that the use of a well design using full 
pressure containment in the wellbore addresses and minimizes the risk 
of ``broaching'' (the escape of hydrocarbons through the cement 
occupying the space between the wellbore and the strata outside the 
casing) precluding the need for any kind of additional well 
containment, such as a cap and flow system. The commenter asserted that 
the combination of a jack-up rig, a prepositioned capping device, and a 
Level 1 well design materially strengthens spill prevention by adapting 
proven technologies to the Arctic context, and results in unique 
advantages with respect to spill prevention such as full pressure 
containment to the rig floor, access to a surface BOP, and a 
preinstalled cap with a response time of mere minutes.
    BSEE disagrees with removing the requirement for a containment 
dome. Although the commenter refers to a ``prepositioned capping 
device'', we assume the reference is to a prepositioned capping stack. 
As discussed previously in this Section, the SCCE requirements are 
intended to ensure that operators have a coordinated and redundant 
system to provide for adequate safety in exploratory drilling 
operations on the Arctic OCS. The capping stack must be positioned to 
arrive at the well location within 24 hours after loss of well control. 
If the out-of-control well is not successfully stopped by the capping 
stack, the other SCCE must arrive at the well location within 7 days 
after a loss of well control or as directed by the Regional Supervisor. 
The containment dome is intended to immediately contain oil that would 
otherwise be discharged into the environment in the event that the 
capping stack or any other method of subsea intervention does not stop 
an uncontrolled flow. The containment dome and cap and flow system are 
part of a sequential process based on operator proposals for dealing 
with Arctic challenges in a risked based manner. Therefore, removing 
the containment dome from the sequential approach would negate the 
intent of the requirements.
    Regarding the commenter's suggestion of utilizing a pre-positioned 
capping stack, we do agree this may be appropriate in specific 
situations. BSEE notes that this final rule does not preclude the use 
of a prepositioned capping stack as a part of an operator's proposal. 
To clarify this, we have revised the definition of Capping Stack to 
specifically include pre-positioned capping stacks, which may be 
utilized below subsea BOPs when deemed technically and operationally 
appropriate, such as when using a jack-up rig with surface trees.
    One commenter asserted that the safety and technical issues 
presented by installing a containment dome between the legs of a 
bottom-founded rig are sufficient to dismiss the use of a containment 
dome out of hand in most situations.
    BSEE disagrees. This comment assumes that the rig will not have 
been moved off the location in the event of a loss of well control that 
has continued for the amount of time it would take to deploy a 
containment dome (up to seven days under this rule). If the well 
control event requires that the rig move off location, the containment 
dome would not only be viable, but necessary to contain the flow during 
relief well operations. When one considers that the

[[Page 46524]]

drilling floor on modern jack-ups is cantilevered off one side of the 
rig, the premise that the containment system must operate ``between the 
legs'' also does not follow. Additionally, as discussed earlier, an 
operator may request to use alternate procedures or equipment under 
existing Sec.  250.141 and this final rule at Sec.  250.471(i).
Paragraph (b), Stump Test
    Paragraph (b) requires monthly stump tests of dry-stored capping 
stacks, and stump tests prior to installation for pre-positioned 
capping stacks. The finalized provision imposes a requirement that any 
capping stack that is dry stored must be stump tested (function and 
pressure tested to prescribed minimum and maximum pressures on the deck 
in a stand or stump where it could be visually observed) monthly. The 
final rule also requires that pre-positioned capping stacks be tested 
prior to each installation on a well to assure BSEE that no damage was 
done during the prior deployment or transit.
    One commenter recommended that any testing requirements of capping 
stacks and similar equipment not add to testing requirements in other 
OCS regions. The commenter asserted that there is no rationale to 
change these standards for Arctic conditions, and instead suggests 
revisions to allow for the operator to demonstrate that the SCCE 
(including elastomers and hydraulic control fluid) are suitable for the 
expected specific operating environment, including both surface and 
subsea conditions.
    Although it is unclear from the comment what ``similar equipment'' 
testing requirements the commenter is referencing, BSEE disagrees with 
the recommendation to align stump testing requirements for Arctic OCS 
capping stacks with those applicable to other OCS regions. The harsh 
conditions on the Arctic OCS do justify enhanced regulatory 
requirements for testing and maintaining equipment, and therefore BSEE 
has determined that more rigorous stump testing of capping stacks is 
appropriate. BSEE agrees with the commenter that requirements should be 
in place to ensure an operator can demonstrate that the SCCE is 
suitable for the expected operating environment. Accordingly, multiple 
provisions finalized in this rulemaking require such a demonstration. 
See, e.g., Sec.  250.473(a) (establishing the requirement that 
equipment and materials (including elastomers and fluids) to be rated 
or de-rated for service under conditions that can be reasonably 
expected during operations); Sec.  250.470(a)(2) (requiring a detailed 
description of how equipment will be prepared for service in the 
relevant conditions); Sec.  250.470(f) (requiring a detailed 
description of SCCE capabilities under Arctic OCS conditions); Sec.  
550.220(c) (requiring descriptions in the EP of the suitability of an 
operator's planned activities and capabilities for Arctic OCS 
conditions).
Paragraph (c), Reevaluating SCCE for Well Design Changes
    Paragraph (c) requires a reevaluation of the SCCE capabilities if 
the well design changes because some well design changes may impact the 
WCD rate. If the operator proposes a change to a well design that 
impacts the WCD rate, the operator must provide the new WCD rate 
through an Application for Permit to Modify (APM), as required by 
existing Sec.  250.465(a). The operator must then verify that the SCCE 
would either be modified to address the new rate or that the previously 
proposed system would be adequate to handle the new WCD to demonstrate 
ongoing compliance with the SCCE capability requirements previously 
addressed.
    No comments were received on the proposed addition of this section 
and the section is therefore finalized as proposed.
Paragraph (d), SCCE Tests or Exercises
    Paragraph (d) requires the operator to conduct tests or exercises 
of the SCCE, including deployment of the SCCE, when directed by the 
Regional Supervisor. Similar to the requirement that equipment be 
tested periodically, BSEE has concluded that there is a need to ensure 
that personnel are prepared and that they, and the SCCE, would be 
capable of performing as intended. Therefore, BSEE is requiring that 
operators conduct tests and exercises (including deployment), at the 
direction of the Regional Supervisor, to verify the functionality of 
the systems and the training of the personnel.
    Three commenters requested Sec.  250.471(d) establish minimum 
testing requirements and that BSEE provide more specific details as to 
the timing and number of tests and exercises. The commenters recommend 
that SCCE be tested prior to each drilling season to ensure it is 
functioning properly and capable of working effectively during an 
emergency, and that the equipment be exercised at least once during the 
drilling season to ensure personnel have the opportunity to practice 
deployment and use of this critical well control equipment in Arctic 
conditions. One of the commenters recommended testing or exercises be 
conducted prior to active operations at a scheduled time so that 
required trained personnel can participate, and to enable adequate 
planning. The commenter suggests that, to ensure all required resources 
will be available at the agreed time, the date for any tests or 
exercises should be agreed to a minimum of 180 days in advance.
    BSEE disagrees with requiring a prescribed frequency of testing of 
SCCE equipment or with pre-arranging all tests well in advance. The 
testing requirements in this final rule are the result of balancing 
logistics and safety concerns against the need to maintain the relevant 
systems in a constant state of readiness. Placing strictly pre-defined 
parameters on testing would allow for a level of staging and 
preparation that is not realistically reflective of the real-world 
scenarios in which the relevant capabilities would be needed. The 
Regional Supervisor should be allowed to determine the appropriate 
balance on a case-by-case basis. The SCCE equipment is not directly 
involved in drilling and, as such, the required state of readiness and 
availability can only be attained by testing as proposed, which allows 
for a case-by-case flexibility.
    One commenter recommended testing the SCCE in Arctic OCS conditions 
at the exploration drill site during the drilling season.
    BSEE has determined the logistics of testing at the Arctic OCS site 
introduce more risk than such testing would alleviate. One example of 
the types of difficulties of onsite testing in Arctic OCS conditions is 
that it is currently not feasible to transport to the Arctic the large 
volume of nitrogen that is required for recharging equipment. Nitrogen 
recharging of the surface SCCE equipment is used to help control 
corrosion during deployment and also helps minimize the risk of 
explosion, should use of the equipment become necessary. Recharging the 
system also helps monitor the system for leaks. Because recharging 
cannot currently be accomplished onsite, in the Arctic, it is more 
prudent to conduct testing and accomplish recharging outside the 
Arctic, where the nitrogen charges can be transported. This approach 
helps to ensure that the SCEE equipment will be properly charged and 
will be capable in the unlikely event that it is needed to response to 
a well control event during operations.
Paragraphs (e) and (f), SCCE Records Maintenance
    Paragraph (e) requires the operator to maintain records pertaining 
to testing, inspection, and maintenance of the SCCE for at least 10 
years, and make them available to BSEE upon request. This information 
will facilitate a review

[[Page 46525]]

of the effectiveness of the operator's inspection and maintenance 
procedures and provide a basis of review for performance during any 
drill, test, or necessary deployment. A 10-year record retention 
requirement is necessary to ensure enough cumulative data is gathered 
to assess overall equipment performance and trends.
    Paragraph (f) requires the operator to maintain records pertaining 
to use of the SCCE during testing, training, and deployment activities 
for at least 3 years and make them available to BSEE upon request. The 
use of the equipment during testing and training activities and actual 
operations must be recorded, along with any deficiencies or failures. 
These records will allow BSEE to address any issues arising during the 
usage and to document any trends or time-dependent problems that would 
develop over the record retention period. In the event that the 
equipment is used in a well control incident, the records are necessary 
to document the effectiveness of the response and functioning of the 
equipment.
    Two commenters recommend that all records be retained for a 
consistent period and electronically submitted to BSEE, unless BSEE can 
explain the reason for recommending a different record retention 
schedule.
    BSEE disagrees. The record maintenance requirements are intended to 
mirror current regulations to the extent possible given the long lead 
times and down periods in Arctic exploratory drilling. See Sec. Sec.  
250.426, 250.434, 250.450 and 250.467. BSEE has determined electronic 
submission should remain an option, not a requirement.
Paragraphs (g) and (h), Mobilizing and Deploying SCCE
    Paragraph (g) requires operators to initiate transit of SCCE to a 
well immediately upon a loss of well control. Paragraph (h) requires 
that operators deploy and use SCCE when directed to do so by the 
Regional Supervisor. This provision ensures that all SCCE is available 
and ready for use and reinforces the Regional Supervisor's authority 
and discretion to require the deployment and use of SCCE in the event 
of a loss of well control.
    One commenter suggests revising these sections to indicate that the 
Regional Supervisor must consult with the FOSC (and State on Scene 
Coordinator (SOSC) in state waters, and appropriate stakeholders and 
technical experts regarding the deployment of SCCE. The commenter 
expressed concern that the proposed requirements of Sec.  250.471(h) 
indicate that the Regional Supervisor has the full authority to require 
the deployment of the capping stack and cap and flow system, without 
any requirement to consult with the Regional Response Team, the FOSC, 
or any technical experts. The commenter asserted that, under Federal 
law, the FOSC is in charge of oil spill response and is the sole 
Federal entity authorized to require actions to control a potential 
discharge. Another commenter further recommended that Sec. Sec.  
250.471(g) and (h), and Sec.  250.472(a) should be eliminated or 
expressly subordinated to direction from the FOSC through the Incident 
Command System (ICS). The commenter alternately suggests that, if this 
recommendation is not accepted, BSEE should revise the provision to 
clarify that any direction to deploy or use SCCE or a relief rig by the 
Regional Supervisor must be requested within the Unified Command.
    BSEE is aware that through OPA and the NCP, ``[t]he OSC in every 
case retains the authority to direct the spill response, and must 
direct responses to spills that pose a substantial threat to the public 
health or welfare of the United States.'' (59 FR 47384, 47387 (Sept. 
15, 2016)). In this context, BSEE will continue to consult with the 
USCG as the on scene coordinator with the authority to direct and 
monitor spill response actions under the NCP. Notwithstanding, BSEE 
recognizes that OPA and the NCP do not expressly preempt all other 
relevant legal authorities that may be implicated during a spill 
response. (59 FR 47389-90 (Sept. 15, 1994)). The final rule's 
requirement that an operator deploy and use SCCE when directed by the 
Regional Supervisor in Sec.  250.471(h) is consistent with BSEE's OCSLA 
authorities concerning the regulation of oil and gas exploration 
activities on the OCS. Neither OPA nor the NCP preempts BSEE's 
regulatory authority with respect to the regulation of these 
activities. Additionally, as discussed above, in addition to this OCSLA 
authority, the President delegated to the Secretary the OPA authority 
under CWA Section 311(j)(1)(C) concerning ``establishing procedures, 
methods, and equipment and other requirements for equipment to prevent 
and to contain discharges of oil and hazardous substances from . . . 
offshore facilities, including associated pipelines . . .'' These 
regulations, including those regarding SCCE, implement the Secretary's 
OPA authority with respect to equipment, procedures, and methods that 
prevent and contain oil discharges from offshore facilities.
    The BSEE Regional Supervisor has both the technical expertise for 
source control operations and the authority to require the operator to 
implement SCCE measures under OCSLA. MOA:OCS-03 describes the roles of 
BSEE and the USCG during responses to spills from offshore facilities: 
``In the event of an oil discharge or substantial threat of an oil 
discharge from an offshore facility seaward of the coastline, BSEE has 
primary responsibility for monitoring and directing all efforts related 
to securing the source of the discharge and reestablishing source 
control . . . the Regional Supervisor or designated individual will 
direct measures to abate sources of pollution from regulated offshore 
facilities to ensure minimal release of oil and to prevent unwarranted 
shutdown of unaffected production and pipeline systems.'' Both BSEE and 
the USCG acknowledge the need to seamlessly coordinate source control 
and other oil spill response activities. BSEE and the USCG established 
the position of the Source Control Support Coordinator (SCSC) within 
ICS framework and the 2014 edition of the USCG Incident Management 
Handbook (IMH). As provided for in the USCG IMH, ``the SCSC . . . is 
the principal advisor to the FOSC for source control issues. The SCSC 
serves on the FOSC's staff and is responsible for providing source 
control support for operational decisions and for coordinating on-scene 
source control activity. During a source control issue involving a loss 
of well control or pipeline incident on the OCS, the SCSC and other 
source control technical specialists are provided by BSEE.'' As such, 
there are clear policies in place and already agreed to between the 
USCG and BSEE regarding how source control activities resulting from a 
loss of well control should be implemented and how they should be 
addressed within ICS and the Unified Command. The provisions within 
this rulemaking are consistent with all existing statutory authorities, 
MOA:OCS-03, and the USCG's ICS framework within the IMH.
    One commenter recommended that BSEE link the SCCE requirements to 
the operator's approved Emergency Response Plan such that, in the event 
of a loss of well control, the primary SCCE will be mobilized in 
accordance with the operator's approved Emergency Response Plan. The 
commenter also recommended that, during the transit of the primary 
SCCE, the operator will administer secondary intervention measures per 
their response plans to terminate or minimize the flow of hydrocarbon 
to the seafloor. The

[[Page 46526]]

commenter also requested additional clarification of BSEE's level of 
responsibility, accountability and liability in the event of any 
incidents that occur as a result of the operator complying with the 
requirements of Sec.  250.471(g), pursuant to which the operator must 
deploy and use SCCE when directed by the Regional Supervisor.
    This provision is intended to emphasize that the purpose of the 
SCCE requirement is to ensure that the operator is able to quickly 
commence source control operations, and BSEE does not agree that the 
suggested revisions are needed. The timeframes finalized in Sec.  
250.471 are minimum planning standards and may become relevant well 
before the ICS is activated and an Emergency Response Plan comes into 
play. This is also especially important with respect to the beginning 
of relief well operations under Sec.  250.472.
    Regarding the comment on BSEE's associated responsibility, 
accountability, and liability if Sec.  250.471 requirements are 
invoked, BSEE clarifies that we do not propose to assume control over 
any operations. The finalized provisions of this rulemaking simply 
require the operator to comply with the terms of the regulations and 
its approved plans and permits and discuss BSEE's authority to order 
such compliance. The operator is responsible for safely executing all 
operations in compliance with the regulations and its approved plans 
and permits. BSEE has no authority to offer advisory opinions 
concerning the scope of potential executive agency legal liability. 
BSEE is authorized to prescribe rules and regulations that are 
necessary to carry out the provisions of OCSLA. (43 U.S.C. 1334(a)). 
Questions concerning legal liability are beyond the scope of this 
rulemaking and BSEE makes no representations concerning legal liability 
in this rule.
Paragraph (i), Approval of Alternative Compliance Measures
    As discussed in Section IV.A, Summary of Key Changes from the NPRM, 
in response to comments BSEE is adding a paragraph (i) to clarify when 
an operator is requesting approval of alternate compliance measures to 
the SCCE requirements under the provisions of Sec.  250.141 and this 
final rule, the operator should demonstrate that the proposed alternate 
compliance measure provides a level of safety and environmental 
protection that meets or exceeds that required by BSEE regulations, 
including demonstrating that the alternate compliance measure will be 
capable of stopping or capturing the flow of an out-of-control well. 
These revisions are in response to commenters' concerns that the 
language as originally proposed did not clearly state a performance 
standard.
What are the relief rig requirements for the Arctic OCS? (Sec.  
250.472)
    BSEE proposed to add a new Sec.  250.472 which requires an operator 
to have available a relief rig when drilling below or working below the 
surface casing. The provisions also proposed to establish a 45-day 
maximum limit on the time necessary to complete relief well operations. 
BSEE notes the relief rig could be stored in harbor, staged idle 
offshore, or actively working, as long as it would be capable of 
physically and contractually meeting the proposed 45-day maximum 
timeframe. However, any relief rig must be a separate and distinct rig 
from the primary drilling rig to account for the possibility that the 
primary rig could be destroyed or incapacitated during the loss of well 
control incident.
    Many commenters expressed general support for the relief rig 
requirements. Many other commenters suggested various revisions to this 
section. As discussed in Section IV.A, Summary of Key Changes from the 
NPRM, BSEE is revising the language of this section in response to 
comments to clarify the performance standard that must be met when 
proposing to use alternate equipment or procedures to the relief rig 
requirements of Sec.  250.472. Specifically, we are adding the phrase 
``able to kill and permanently plug an out-of-control well'' to the 
proposed Sec.  250.472(a) to clearly state the performance standards 
the relief rig must achieve. We are also revising the proposed Sec.  
250.472(c) to clarify when an operator is requesting approval of 
alternate compliance measures to the relief rig requirements under the 
provisions of Sec.  250.141 and this final rule, the operator will need 
to demonstrate that the proposed alternate compliance measure provides 
a level of safety and environmental protection that meets or exceeds 
that required by BSEE regulations, including demonstrating that the 
alternate compliance measure will be able to kill and permanently plug 
an out-of-control well. These revisions are in response to commenters' 
requests for a clear statement of a performance standard and are 
designed to offer guidance and clarification to operators with respect 
to the performance-based standard established by this rule that any 
proposed alternate compliance must meet or exceed. All other provisions 
of Sec.  250.472 are finalized as proposed for the reasons discussed 
herein.
    Several commenters recommended that BSEE remove the relief rig 
requirements and revise the final regulations to implement a 
performance-based equipment requirement. Commenters suggest that the 
availability of several alternative technologies, such as capping 
stacks, prepositioned capping devices, and subsea isolation devices 
(SID), negate the need to require a relief rig.
    BSEE disagrees with the suggestion to remove the relief rig 
requirement. We have determined that a relief rig is currently the most 
reliable option for permanently killing and plugging an out-of-control 
well. We do agree with the commenters' concerns that the regulations 
provide flexibility and allow for the use of new technology that can 
meet or exceed the level of safety and environmental protection 
provided by a relief rig in the event of an out-of-control well. None 
of the types of technology proposed by the commenters, however, have 
been proven to be conclusively, and consistently, effective at killing 
and permanently plugging an out-of-control well. Therefore, BSEE has 
determined to finalize the Sec.  250.472 requirement for an operator to 
have appropriate access to a relief rig, different from the primary 
drilling rig, when drilling or working below the surface casing during 
Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations.
    Although a relief well is the most reliable, and in some 
circumstances the only available, solution to kill and permanently plug 
an out-of-control well, there may be circumstances where innovative 
alternative compliance measures to drilling a relief well are 
available. The proposed Sec.  250.472(c) addressed this concern by 
directing operators to existing Sec.  250.141, May I ever use 
alternative procedures or equipment?. In response to comments, we have 
revised Sec.  250.472(a) to include a more explicit performance 
standard, where the relief rig must be able to ``kill and permanently 
plug an out-of-control well''. We have also revised the language of 
proposed Sec.  250.472(c) as set out in the regulatory text at the end 
of this document.
    Many comments also requested additional clarity and explicit 
procedures for an operator to apply for the use of equivalent 
technology.
    BSEE understands the commenters' stated reasons for desiring 
additional details about how to obtain approval for alternative 
procedures or equipment under Sec.  250.141 and this final rule. As 
discussed in Section III.B and D of this preamble, operators may 
request

[[Page 46527]]

approval for innovative technological advancements that may provide 
them additional flexibility, provided that the operator can establish 
that such technology provides at least the same level of protection as 
the relief rig requirements.
    One commenter asserted that the requirement for a relief rig under 
Sec.  250.472 is in conflict with the preference for performance-based 
regulations established in E.O. 12866, E.O. 13563 and associated 
guidance.
    BSEE disagrees. Section 250.472 is consistent with the relevant 
portions of E.O. 12866, E.O. 13563 and the associated Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) guidance because it would 
allow for operators to utilize less expensive technologies that achieve 
the performance outcome of permanently killing and plugging an out-of-
control well in a timely fashion. Importantly, within certain general 
parameters, the proposed regulation leaves a fair amount of discretion 
with the operator as to how to accomplish that outcome. Although this 
provision presumptively requires that operators have access to relief 
rigs to achieve the regulatory outcome, it sets forth the minimum level 
of prescription necessary to achieve the end, leaving many performance-
based options available for operators to pursue. Additionally, Sec.  
250.472(c) expressly permits operators to propose alternate equipment 
to achieve the regulatory objective of permanently killing and plugging 
an out-of-control well. We note that we considered at the NPRM stage 
imposing more prescriptive requirements for relief rig capabilities, 
but instead chose to provide operators flexibility by selecting the 
best approach that would accomplish the ultimate goals.\39\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \39\ 80 FR 9940.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Many commenters expressed their support for the NPC Arctic 
Potential Study and suggest we revise the relief well requirements to 
align with the Study's findings. The commenters cite to the NPC Arctic 
Potential Study's suggestion of alternative preventative measures such 
as well design, capping stacks or subsea shutoff devices as methods of 
spill mitigation and containment.
    BSEE disagrees with the recommendation to revise Sec.  250.472 and 
does not view the requirements finalized in this rulemaking as being in 
conflict with the NPC Arctic Potential Study. As discussed in Section 
IV.B.1, General Comments, BOEM and BSEE recognize the NPC Arctic 
Potential Study as a valuable comprehensive study that considers the 
research and technology opportunities to enable prudent development of 
U.S. Arctic oil and gas resources. However, it is only one of the 
resources our regulatory experts considered in developing regulations 
to ensure the safe and responsible development of petroleum resources 
on the Arctic OCS. BSEE has determined that the relief rig requirements 
are appropriate to ensure the operator is able to kill and permanently 
plug an out-of-control well in a reasonable and safe amount of time. 
Additionally, the finalized provisions of Sec.  250.472 align with the 
NPC Arctic Potential Study's recommendations for the availability of 
alternate technology to a relief rig. We note that operators generally 
do not view relief wells as the preferred alternative in a well control 
event. As reflected in Sec.  250.471 and throughout its existing source 
control regulations, BSEE, too, does not view a relief well as a first-
choice well intervention. Although a relief rig is the primary 
technology for killing and permanently plugging an out-of-control well, 
it is intended to be a part of the continuum of response, beginning 
with the source control and containment intervention measures. However, 
in the Arctic, due to the very short portion of the year in which well 
locations are accessible, BSEE has determined that timely access to a 
relief rig is an appropriate requirement to ensure the lowest risk of a 
prolonged uncontrolled flow under the ice, which will cover the site 
for a majority of the year. BSEE has not identified an alternative 
technology that provides the same level of reliability for permanently 
killing and plugging an out-of-control well following attempts, 
successful or unsuccessful, to achieve temporary control through more 
direct intervention options. An operator may always request approval of 
alternate equipment or procedures under Sec.  250.141 and this final 
rule, as appropriate. These alternative compliance measures may be 
approved if they are shown to meet or exceed the level of safety and 
environmental protection provided by the relief rig requirements of 
Sec.  250.472.
    Two commenters opposed the use of any equipment performance 
standard in this provision, asserting that the requirement for a relief 
rig should be mandatory. The commenters assert that permitting the use 
of any alternative compliance measures would necessitate a formal 
rulemaking with public notice and comment.
    BSEE recognizes the commenters' concern, but disagrees with 
precluding the use of any alternative procedures or equipment to the 
relief rig requirements of Sec.  250.472. We note that the ability of 
industry to innovate within regulatory constraints requires a careful 
balance, especially when undertaken in environmentally sensitive areas 
such as the Arctic OCS. In attempting to strike this balance, we have 
determined the hybrid prescriptive and performance-based requirements 
of Sec.  250.472 are appropriate. Further, no additional formal 
rulemaking is necessary because an operator's option to apply for the 
use of alternate compliance measures is always available for any of the 
part 250 regulations under the existing regulatory provisions 
previously promulgated through notice and comment procedures at Sec.  
250.141.
    Two commenters asserted that the relief well requirement is not 
best available and safest technology (BAST) as required by OCSLA at 43 
U.S.C. 1347(b).\40\ One of the commenters asserted that BAST for source 
control is a capping stack, not a relief well, because drilling a same 
season relief well takes significantly longer to control a source than 
does the deployment of a capping stack, and the risk profile associated 
with drilling a same season relief well is greater than that associated 
with a capping stack. Several commenters cite two Minerals Management 
Service (MMS) studies \41\ as supporting the assertion that relief rigs 
are not an effective means to kill and permanently plug an out-of-
control well and therefore should not be included in regulatory 
requirements.
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    \40\ The Secretary of Interior ``shall require, on all new 
drilling and production operations and whenever practicable, on 
existing operations, the use of the best available and safest 
technologies (BAST) which the Secretary determines to be 
economically feasible, wherever failure of equipment would have a 
significant effect on safety, health, or the environment, except 
where the Secretary determines that the incremental benefits are 
clearly insufficient to justify the incremental costs of utilizing 
such technologies.''
    \41\ Izon, David, Danenberger, E.P., and Mayes, Melinda, 
``Absence of Fatalities in Blowouts Encouraging in MMS Study of OCS 
Incidents 1992-2006'', Drilling Contractor magazine, pages 84-90, 
July/August 2007; Danenberger, E.P., ``Outer Continental Shelf 
Drilling Blowouts, 1971-1991'', OTC #7248, 25th Annual Offshore 
Technology Conference, Houston, Texas, May 1993.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    BSEE disagrees with the commenters. We determined that there is 
adequate support for requiring a relief rig for Arctic OCS exploratory 
drilling operations. BSEE has concluded that the requirement to have 
access to and utilize a relief rig to kill and permanently plug an out-
of-control well is necessary and appropriate under Arctic OCS 
conditions. Although the commenters point to the MMS Studies as 
countering this conclusion, the MMS studies examined blowouts only

[[Page 46528]]

occurring on the Gulf of Mexico OCS, with the exception of one on the 
Pacific OCS. As discussed throughout this final rule, the Arctic OCS is 
a uniquely challenging operating environment. In the Arctic, 
exploratory drilling operations from MODUs occur only during the open 
water season, in a region with little or no infrastructure that is 
subject to variable and sometimes extreme weather, and where 
transportation systems could be interrupted for significant periods. 
Additionally, if a blowout occurs during the open water season, it is 
imperative to permanently kill and plug the well in as short a time as 
possible, as ice encroachment may complicate or prevent drilling and 
transit operations and preclude a resolution of the situation before 
the extended off-season.
    Commenters also appear to misconstrue the nature of the relief rig 
requirements, particularly their connection with the SCCE requirements 
of Sec.  250.471. Commenters emphasize the preference for using capping 
stacks to regain prompt and immediate control of an out-of-control 
well. BSEE agrees with this assertion, as reflected in the provisions 
of Sec.  250.471 requiring Arctic OCS operators to have a capping stack 
stationed nearby for prompt deployment to an out-of-control well as an 
initial response. BSEE acknowledges the timelines and challenges that 
accompany relief well operations, particularly on the Arctic OCS. BSEE 
does not propose the relief rig as an alternative to the capping stack, 
but rather as a supplement to the capping stack serving the distinct 
purpose of permanently killing and plugging the well. While capping 
stacks are sometimes--though not always--capable of regaining immediate 
control over a well, BSEE believes that the best available option to 
kill a well reliably and permanently, and to allow for safe longer-term 
abandonment, is a relief well. Accordingly, a relief rig is not an 
alternative to a capping stack, but rather a separate line of defense 
in the event of its failure, and/or the most reliable method for 
shifting from the temporary control potentially provided by a capping 
stack to the permanent killing of an out-of-control well on the Arctic 
OCS. Additionally, as discussed previously, operators may utilize 
alternate equipment or procedures if they can show the alternate 
compliance measures meet or exceed the level of safety and 
environmental protection provided by a relief rig. Specifically, the 
alternate compliance measure must demonstrate the ability to kill and 
plug an out-of-control well permanently; separate and distinct from the 
potential immediate well control capabilities of a capping stack.
    BSEE notes that, under Sec.  250.107(c), it presumes that an 
operator's compliance with BSEE regulations constitutes BAST. BSEE's 
Office of Offshore Regulatory Programs is responsible for developing 
and maintaining regulations, policies, standards and guidelines related 
to BAST. We continuously strive, through programs, such as the 
Technology Assessment Program, and collaborations, such as the Ocean 
Energy Safety Institute, to identify and incorporate new and evolving 
technologies into our regulation of OCS oil and gas activities. The 
regulations applicable to MODUs conducting exploratory drilling on the 
Arctic OCS reflect these efforts. The relief rig, SCCE, and other 
regulations require a coordinated and redundant system to provide for 
adequate safety in exploratory drilling operations under the uniquely 
challenging environmental and operational conditions on the Arctic OCS. 
BSEE has determined the finalized provisions in this rulemaking provide 
for the appropriate redundancy and sequencing of the responses, based 
on deployment time and varying equipment capabilities, and therefore 
provides the necessary level of safety and environmental protection to 
allow for exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS.
    One commenter further questioned BSEE's support for requiring a 
relief rig for exploratory drilling operations from a MODU or jack-up 
on the Arctic OCS, and requested identification of the administrative 
record. The commenter asserted that BSEE should allow for public 
comment on the administrative record when it is publicly identified.
    Generally defined, an administrative record is a compilation of the 
body of information considered directly or indirectly by an agency 
decision-maker in arriving at a final decision. The administrative 
record is created from the decision record, which is an evolving 
resource through development of the proposed rule on to promulgation of 
the final rule. Public comments, including those submitted by the 
commenter, are part of the administrative record. As it does with all 
of its proposed rules, BSEE invited public comments on the NPRM and 
supporting documents and data to ensure that it considers a wide range 
of environmental, economic, and other issues related to the proposed 
rule. The commenter submitted this comment during the public comment 
period of the rulemaking process, and therefore prior to the final 
agency decision. The administrative record is complete when the 
Department issues the final rule, not before. In addition, 
administrative records are not subject to public review and comment 
requirements under applicable law. We note, however, the public may 
view the public rulemaking docket at any time. The docket, available at 
www.regulations.gov, contains all public comments, as well as 
additional documents and information relied upon in the finalization of 
these regulations. BOEM and BSEE carefully considered all comments on 
the proposed rule on the requirement for a relief rig--along with a 
host of other resources that make up the overall administrative 
record--and, as discussed previously, determined that the requirement 
for a relief rig is both necessary and appropriate for exploratory 
drilling operations on the Arctic OCS.
    Several commenters oppose the 45-day maximum limit on the time 
necessary to complete relief well operations and request that BSEE 
allow for a performance-based requirement to determine the end of 
drilling season date on a case-by-case basis. Many of the commenters 
also state the 45-day limit unnecessarily shortens the drilling season 
on the Arctic OCS, and consequently lessens the value of existing 
leases.
    BOEM and BSEE note the proposed 45-day maximum limit does not seek 
to impose a specific requirement. The 45-day threshold marks the 
maximum time allowed, but the requirement is performance-based and 
leaves the means of compliance up to the operator.
    BOEM and BSEE will take a precautionary approach to evaluating 
proposals to complete relief well operations,\42\ particularly those 
proposing a window of less than 45 days. This evaluation will be part 
of the review by BOEM in the EP process under Sec.  550.220(c)(4) and 
BSEE in the APD process under Sec.  250.470(e). BOEM and BSEE will 
apply a presumption that 45 days is the appropriate amount of time 
needed to ensure successful completion of relief well operations, 
including safe transit from the well site. Any proposal by an operator 
that seeks to demonstrate the ability to complete relief well 
operations in less than 45 days will be made public by BOEM's posting 
of the operator's EP once it is deemed submitted. The public will have 
an opportunity to review and comment

[[Page 46529]]

on the EP, including the operator's plans for completing relief well 
operations in 45 days or less. If an operator seeks to make such a 
demonstration, BOEM and BSEE will undertake a rigorous, data-driven 
approach to ensure that sufficient time is allocated for the operator 
to complete relief well operations. Specifically, BOEM and BSEE will 
require that the length of the shoulder season encompass the amount of 
time that is needed to ensure successful relief well operations, taking 
full account of the cumulative risk of delay across the steps required 
for completion of relief well operations, including potential delays 
that may occur due to the following: Weather disruption, the presence 
of ice that cannot be handled by any available ice breakers and other 
ice management vessels, equipment or process malfunctions, 
uncertainties associated with the duration of time required to achieve 
successful relief well intervention, and any other variables related to 
relief well operations. Whether the deployment of ice breakers or other 
ice management vessels is included in the EP will also be evaluated. A 
reduction below 45 days will be granted only to the extent justified 
after applying this precautionary approach to assessing plans.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \42\ Operators may request approval to use alternative 
compliance measures that meet or exceed the level of safety and 
environmental protection in accordance with Sec.  250.472. This 
evaluation would also apply to any approved alternative compliance 
measures.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter expressed concern that current technology has not 
advanced to a point where oil can be effectively cleaned up when mixed 
with ice, or worse, trapped under the ice.
    BSEE understands the commenter's concern, but notes the 
finalization of this rulemaking specifically limits operations to the 
open water season and requires early termination of operations when 
drilling below or working below the surface casing. The early 
termination is designed not only to allow the drilling of a relief 
well, but also to enable the use of oil spill response equipment prior 
to freeze-up. BSEE acknowledges, in certain situations, some cleanup of 
oil in ice could become necessary, and has required operators to 
develop oil intervention practices that will enhance the effectiveness 
of spill countermeasures when dealing with oil in broken ice 
conditions. Oil spill response techniques do exist for responding to 
oil spills in Arctic conditions. Research and development designed to 
improve oil spill response countermeasure technologies and procedures 
are continuous and ongoing, including efforts that are funded by both 
government and industry entities.
    One commenter generally supported this rulemaking's emphasis on 
equipment redundancy to contain or control a WCD. The commenter 
recommended revising this section to encourage operators to demonstrate 
the success rate of capping operations and equipment, as well as to 
provide confidence levels of dealing with a number of discharge 
scenarios.
    BSEE disagrees with the recommended revision. As discussed 
previously, the relief rig requirement is not the primary method of 
control or containment. The commenter's concern for encouraging 
redundancy is addressed in Sec.  250.471, which requires Arctic OCS 
operators to have a capping stack stationed nearby for prompt 
deployment to an out-of-control well as an initial line of response. 
BSEE does not propose the relief rig as an alternative to the capping 
stack, but rather as a supplement to the capping stack, serving the 
distinct purpose of permanently killing and plugging the well. 
Regarding opportunities to demonstrate the success rates of capping 
operations and equipment, Sec.  250.471(b) requires stump testing of 
capping stacks at specific intervals, and Sec.  250.471(d) directs 
operators to conduct testing when directed by the BSEE Regional 
Supervisor. Accordingly, we agree there should be redundant 
capabilities covering a wide range of scenarios to be employed during 
an emergency situation, and the finalized provisions of this rulemaking 
adequately address this issue ensure.
    Two commenters requested that, if the 45-day maximum timeframe is 
finalized, the WCD regulations at Sec.  254.26(d)(l) should be revised 
to align with the maximum time allowed to drill a relief well, such 
that the operator must plan for a blowout lasting up to 45 days. 
Another commenter expressed general concern for how the WCD is 
calculated.
    BSEE has determined the differing timeframes do not necessitate a 
revision at this time. The 45-day provision is the maximum timeframe 
allowed for an operator to move the relief rig to the site of the 
blowout and complete all necessary operations to kill and abandon the 
original well and abandon the relief well prior to seasonal ice 
encroachment. Existing regulations in Sec.  254.26 provide a broad 
performance-based standard requiring plan holders to establish what a 
WCD would be, and then ensure that enough response and supporting 
resources are available to clean up such a discharge. Although Sec.  
254.26(d)(1) provides the WCD scenario must show how an operator will 
support operations for a blowout lasting 30 days, it does not preclude 
developing a scenario lasting longer than 30 days, nor does the 
hypothetical prospect of a spill lasting longer than 30 days 
necessitate revision of that regulatory timeline. Accordingly, NTL 
2012-N06 Guidance to Owners and Operators of Offshore Facilities 
Seaward of the Coast Line Concerning Regional Oil Spill Response Plans, 
encourages operators to consider a variety of factors when developing a 
response strategy for each WCD, including planning to support response 
to a spill lasting longer than 30 days.\43\
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    \43\ Available at http://www.bsee.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Notices-to-Lessees-and-Operators.
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    One commenter suggests BSEE adopt a geographic prescriptive 
standard, requiring operators to maintain a relief rig within a certain 
distance of their drilling operation. The commenter asserted that the 
proposed performance-based requirements could still be maintained as a 
backstop in order to impose liability on any operator that fails to 
drill a relief well in a timely manner, even while compliant with the 
prescriptive standards.
    BSEE disagrees. As discussed in the preamble to the NPRM, we did 
consider a prescriptive geographic standard, but based on both 2012 and 
2015 operational experience and public comments to the proposed 
requirements of Sec.  250.472, we determined to retain the 45 day 
maximum time allowance within a performance-based requirement to 
provide the operator flexibility to innovate and avoid unanticipated 
logistical consequences.
    One commenter requested that BSEE mandate an additional 10-day 
buffer period before an operator's established end of season date to 
allow for unforeseen circumstances. The commenter asserted the 
additional time added to the end of season date will help mitigate the 
risk of relief well operations not being completed before the 
encroachment of winter sea ice and avoid the consequences of a spill 
continuing until the following open water season.
    BSEE has determined it is not necessary to impose a mandatory 
additional 10 day buffer, because this rulemaking specifically limits 
operations to the open-water season. The requirement to be able to 
complete relief well operations prior to the expected encroachment of 
seasonal ice results in the end of drilling operations well in advance 
of winter sea ice encroachment and therefore provides an adequate 
buffer to accommodate the risks of a late season loss of well control. 
Further, a significant portion of the last 10 days of operations will 
be spent permanently or temporarily abandoning a well and most of the

[[Page 46530]]

operations occurring at the end of the drilling season will be 
significantly safer than the drilling itself. Because the regulations 
already require operators to stop drilling below or working below the 
surface casing well before the encroaching ice season, BSEE does not 
believe a mandatory 10-day buffer period is necessary to further 
mitigate risk.
    Two commenters request clarification of how an operator will 
calculate the expected onset of seasonal ice encroachment when 
determining the end of seasonal operations to meet the proposed 
requirements of Sec.  250.472. The commenters express concern that the 
calculation does not take into account periodic ice incursions during 
the open water season, and how potential ice management activities, 
which could include rig movement, interact with this requirement.
    BSEE clarifies that the operator will calculate the freeze-up date 
based on historical data and will update it daily, in conjunction with 
the daily ice reports, as the season nears its end. Periodic ice 
incursions occur mostly during the early part of the open water season 
as the ice breaks off and floats away. Section 250.472 relates to the 
projected return of seasonal sea ice to the drilling site at the end of 
the open water season. However, an operator's ice management plan is 
always in effect with the included ice monitoring provisions.
    One commenter asserted that the language of Sec.  250.472(b) 
prohibiting ``drilling below or working below the surface casing'' 
during the relief well buffer period conflicts with the proposed 
provisions at Sec.  550.220(c)(6), requiring ``[t]he termination of 
drilling operations into zones capable of flowing liquid hydrocarbons 
to the surface.'' The commenter asserted that, taken literally, an 
operator could not even conduct operations that are required by 
regulations during this relief well buffer period. The commenter 
suggests that, as drafted, the BOEM provision of part 550 references 
Sec.  250.472 and that the more restrictive BSEE language would prevail 
if the two sections were reconciled. The commenter requested the 
conflict between the two provisions be addressed in a re-proposed rule 
by retaining the language under proposed Sec.  550.220(c)(6), and 
removing the applicable language of Sec.  250.472(b).
    We agree with the commenter in part. The intent of Sec.  
550.220(c)(6)(ii) is to obtain the information that is known at the 
time of EP submission regarding the operator's plans for compliance 
with the requirements of Sec.  250.472(b). Therefore, as a technical 
correction, we removed the text of ``into zones capable of flowing 
liquid hydrocarbons'' from Sec.  550.220(c)(6)(ii) in this final rule. 
There is no need to re-propose this provision because the intent of 
Sec.  550.220(c)(6)(ii) was stated as requiring the operator to include 
in the EP information ``consistent with the relief rig planning 
requirements under Sec.  250.472'' and this revision does not change 
the intent of Sec.  550.220(c)(6)(ii) as proposed. We disagree with the 
commenter's second suggestion that the proposed language of Sec.  
550.220(c)(6) should be retained, instead of the finalized language of 
Sec.  250.472(b), ``drilling below or working below the surface 
casing.'' Operators may drill or work down to the surface casing at any 
time. However, the risk of a blowout is increased while working or 
drilling below that casing, including before drilling into areas 
expected to be capable of flowing liquid hydrocarbons (such as by way 
of example, shallow gas pockets). Therefore, the finalized language 
``below the surface casing'' ensures that an operator stops at that 
last casing point, or pulls back and temporarily plugs at that casing 
point, to meet the requirements of Sec.  250.472(b) and have 
appropriate capabilities to complete the relief well sufficiently in 
advance of seasonal ice encroachment.
    One commenter suggested the end of seasonal operation dates should 
not be determined by the operator.
    BSEE disagrees. The anticipated end of season date is determined by 
the operator because they have the primary responsibility to conduct 
operations in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. They also 
have the best access to the relevant information related to their 
equipment and capabilities to operate within certain conditions and 
timelines (e.g., how long it will take to complete a relief well based 
on their planned relief rig equipment and staging). Additionally, the 
operator is in the best position to manage adaptively the extent of 
operations in the Arctic in light of rapidly changing late-season 
conditions and in recognition of the extremely short drilling season. 
BOEM and BSEE provide the regulatory oversight of exploratory drilling 
operations, however, and any determination of projected end of season 
dates made by the operator must be reviewed by BOEM and BSEE under the 
provisions of the EP (Sec.  550.220(c)(6)) and the APD (Sec.  
250.470(e)). BOEM ultimately approves the end of season date and would 
need to approve any changes made to the date established in the EP.
    One commenter suggests BSEE require relief rigs be in the Arctic 
OCS area where drilling is underway, to allow the rig to be in place 
and operating within one week of a blowout occurring.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter's concern for a timely response in 
the event of a blowout occurring. However, BSEE determined the best 
method of protection is not to prescriptively require an operator to 
stage a relief rig within a specific geographic area. While BSEE 
considered imposing such a requirement, we ultimately determined that 
the performance-based approach of establishing a 45-day maximum, but 
otherwise permitting the operator to determine its approach to relief 
rig staging, was preferable. This approach allows the operator 
flexibility in the management of its rigs while still ensuring that 
basic safety and environmental protection standards are met. 
Additionally, the response capabilities finalized in Sec.  250.471 for 
SCCE will be activated and deployed at the same time that the relief 
rig is moving into location, mooring up and getting ready to drill, 
with the initial response required within 24 hours. The relief rig and 
SCCE requirements are not mutually exclusive operations and can proceed 
concurrently.
    One commenter expressed concern that mutual-aid agreements or 
cooperatives formed to share relief rigs may inhibit the effectiveness 
of response. The commenter recommended the final rule set limits on 
continued drilling of any well relying on a particular relief rig if a 
blowout occurs and that rig is dedicated to blowout response.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter and believes this issue is addressed 
in the performance standard finalized at Sec.  250.472(b), and 
incorporated into the operator's approved EP (Sec.  550.220(c)(4)) and 
APD (Sec.  250.470(e)). An operator is required to have access to a 
relief rig, different from the primary rig, that is able to move onsite 
to drill a relief well, kill and abandon the original well, and abandon 
the relief well prior to seasonal ice encroachment at the drill site, 
but no later than 45 days from a loss of well control. The commenter is 
concerned with a circumstance in which a single relief rig is relied 
upon to provide the necessary capabilities for multiple operations 
(pursuant to a mutual aid or cooperative agreement), and is called into 
service by a well control event at one of the well sites. Under such 
circumstances, any other continued drilling operations that rely on the 
availability of that relief rig must stop, as the relief rig would no 
longer be available to respond within the parameters required by the 
regulation

[[Page 46531]]

and the operator's approved EP and APD.
    Two commenters recommend the final rule include a provision 
requiring operators to submit a Relief Well Drilling Plan as part of 
the EP application in Sec.  550.220. The commenters further assert that 
such plans are critical in any case where a mutual aid agreement is 
used to share a relief well drilling rig, to ensure that drilling 
operators agree to provide relief well personnel that are trained, 
qualified, and prepared to provide the services they offer to share.
    BSEE agrees with the commenters' concerns that useful and important 
information about the relief rig should be required in the EP, and 
believes that the final regulations are sufficiently protective as 
finalized, without the need for an additional plan as suggested by the 
commenters. Although not specifically entitled a ``Relief Well Drilling 
Plan'', Sec.  550.220(c)(4) requires an operator to include with the EP 
a general description of how they will comply with the relief rig 
requirements of this section, including a description of the relief 
well rig, the anticipated staging area of the relief well rig, an 
estimate of the time it would take for the relief well rig to arrive at 
the site of a loss of well control, how the operator would drill a 
relief well if necessary, and the approximate timeframe to complete 
relief well operations. The EP process provides an opportunity for the 
public to review and comment on any submissions related to relief well 
operations, including the anticipated length of time to drill a relief 
well and complete relief well operations. Additionally, Sec.  
250.470(e) requires that the APD include a detailed description of how 
an operator will comply with the relief rig requirements of Sec.  
250.472. This information is required at both the EP and the APD stages 
because we expect an operator to have more detailed information as they 
move closer in time toward the exploratory drilling operations. The 
planning and descriptions required by these provisions ensure adequate 
attention to these issues.
    One commenter suggests that, if a rig is strictly dedicated as a 
relief well rig, it still needs to be subject to the same audit, 
inspection, and testing requirements as an operating rig before it is 
approved as a stand-by rig to allow for the rig to be verified and 
ready for immediate use in an emergency. The commenter also recommended 
all records be retained for a consistent period and electronically 
submitted to BSEE, unless BSEE can explain the reason for recommending 
a different record retention schedule.
    BSEE acknowledges the commenter's concern and notes that any 
dedicated standby rig contracted to an operator is subject to the same 
qualification, inspection and testing requirements as a rig with 
drilling activities underway. Section 250.472(a) expressly states that 
``[y]our relief rig must comply with all other requirements of this 
part pertaining to drill rig characteristics and capabilities, and it 
must be able to drill a relief well under anticipated Arctic OCS 
conditions.'' Similarly, a dedicated standby rig is subject to the 
enhanced SEMS auditing requirements (see Sec.  250.1920(f)) when 
supporting operations on the Arctic OCS. This means that the existence 
and effectiveness of the SEMS must also be tested on the standby rig, 
in addition to the active drilling rig or rigs, during the 30 day 
period after drilling activities commence in that field of operations.
    BSEE disagrees with the comment regarding record retention. The 
record maintenance requirements in the proposed rule are intended to 
mirror, to the extent possible given the long lead times and down 
periods in Arctic exploratory drilling, current regulations. See 
Sec. Sec.  250.426, 250.434, 250.450 and 250.467. BSEE also disagrees 
that electronic submission should be required and at this time we 
determined electronic submittal of records should remain optional.
    One commenter asserted that the use of an SID should be considered 
only in the case of a jack-up MODU, specifically to be employed to 
allow the jack-up to be moved off location in the event of unmanageable 
hazardous ice encroachment. The commenter explains that, for floating 
MODUs, the SID would not add benefit, as the subsea BOP is already 
deployed at the seabed and the SID would require a much deeper mud line 
cellar, which raises additional risks for the mud line cellar 
construction and soil stability.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter. The final rule does not require an 
SID, although it may be requested as alternate technology or procedure 
for use with a jack-up under appropriate circumstances, pursuant to 
Sec.  250.141. The BOP is already subsea with a floating drilling unit, 
so an SID would be only marginally effective or redundant.
    One commenter requested that BSEE clarify why the decision to 
commence relief well drilling may be made by the Regional Supervisor. 
The commenter asserted that such decisions should be made by the 
operator because it will have the best understanding of the real-time 
situation and the most prudent sequence of steps. The commenter 
suggests that, if BSEE seeks to direct active drilling operations, 
further clarification is required on BSEE's responsibility, 
accountability, and liability in the event of any incidents that occur 
as a direct result of those actions.
    BSEE anticipates that decision-making regarding appropriate 
sequencing and execution of well control activities in the event of the 
operator's loss of well control will involve cooperation between BSEE 
and the operator, in light of the operator's familiarity with its 
circumstances, conditions, and capabilities. BSEE is not seeking to 
direct active drilling operations and clarifies that its role is to 
enforce existing regulations to protect rig personnel, the environment, 
and the natural resources of the OCS, which may include ordering an 
operator to drill a relief well. In the event of a loss of well 
control, the Regional Supervisor may direct the operator to commence 
drilling a relief well; however, it remains the operator's 
responsibility to manage active drilling operations, in accordance with 
the requirements of the regulations to respond to a loss of well 
control. Questions concerning liability are beyond the scope of this 
rulemaking, BSEE is authorized to prescribe rules and regulations that 
are necessary to carry out the provisions of OCSLA. (43 U.S.C. 
1334(a)). Section 250.472 requires the operator to have access to a 
relief rig that is different from the primary rig, and that will arrive 
on site, drill a relief well, kill and abandon the original well, and 
abandon the relief well prior to expected seasonal ice encroachment at 
the drill site, but no later than 45 days after the loss of well 
control. This requirement does not specify how any relief well will be 
drilled. Drilling a relief well (in accordance with an approved APD and 
any conditions included therein) will continue to be the operator's 
responsibility.
    One commenter questioned the authority of the Regional Supervisor 
to direct an operator to commence relief well operations, which is an 
oil spill source control activity and therefore within the 
jurisdictional authority of the FOSC, not the Regional Supervisor.
    BSEE disagrees. The drilling of a relief well is an emergency well 
control measure that is conducted under regulations implementing OCSLA. 
As such, the BSEE Regional Supervisor has the authority to require the 
operator to begin relief rig operations as part of their 
responsibilities under the OCSLA.

[[Page 46532]]

    One commenter requested clarification on why BOEM and BSEE are 
proposing additional regulations for relief rigs if they already have 
the existing authority to require relief rigs for exploratory drilling 
on the Arctic OCS. The commenter cites the NPRM preamble: ``BOEM and 
BSEE anticipate that we would exercise our existing authorities to 
require a relief rig for any future exploratory drilling on the Arctic 
OCS'' (see 80 FR 9948).
    BOEM and BSEE have broad authority under existing regulations to 
impose reasonable conditions on exploration plans and drilling permits. 
We included the express requirements for a relief rig in Sec.  250.472 
because this provision clearly articulates that BOEM and BSEE will 
require access to a relief rig during all future exploration activities 
on the Arctic OCS, unless an operator is able to obtain approval for 
alternative compliance measures under Sec.  250.141 and this final rule 
at Sec.  250.472(c). This explicit requirement should allow operators 
to plan for all of the types of vessels, equipment, and personnel that 
will be required to conduct exploratory drilling operations on the 
Arctic OCS, and on what terms.
    One commenter recommended Sec.  250.472(a) be revised to insert the 
word ``safely,'' whereby an operator would be required ``to safely 
drill a relief well under anticipated Arctic OCS conditions.''
    BSEE agrees with the commenter's premise, but notes the requirement 
for safe operations is the primary goal of all our regulations, and as 
such this obligation is captured throughout the regulations. For 
example, Sec.  250.107, What must I do to protect health, safety, 
property, and the environment?, requires that all OCS operations be 
conducted in a safe manner and all equipment be maintained in a safe 
condition. Accordingly, the revision proposed by the commenter is 
already implicit in the regulatory requirement and an obligation of the 
operator, and is therefore unnecessary.
    One commenter suggests that, if an operator drills a well to total 
depth during the drilling season prior to the time set aside for a 
relief well, then that time could be effectively utilized for logging 
and well evaluation.
    BSEE disagrees. The final regulations at Sec.  250.472 prohibit 
working (e.g., logging and well evaluation) or drilling below the 
surface casing when seasonal ice encroachment is expected before the 
relief rig could complete relief well operations. BSEE has determined 
that the risk associated with drilling below or working without the 
ability of the relief rig to arrive on site, drill a relief well, kill 
and abandon the original well, and abandon the relief well prior to 
expected seasonal ice encroachment at the drill site, is too great to 
allow for such operations. The operator could, alternatively, use this 
period to perform operations above the surface casing, such as drilling 
mudline cellars or top holes and setting surface casing in preparation 
for future operations.
What must I do to protect health, safety, property, and the environment 
while operating on the Arctic OCS? (Sec.  250.473)
    BSEE proposed to add a new Sec.  250.473 that would require 
performance-based measures in addition to those listed in Sec.  250.107 
to protect health, safety, property, and the environment during 
exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS. Several comments 
were received on this section. BSEE has reviewed the comments and 
determined to finalize Sec.  250.473 as proposed.
    The majority of commenters were generally supportive of the 
requirements of Sec.  250.473, and consider the finalized requirements 
good business practice and appropriate environmental stewardship.
    One commenter suggests that the performance-based requirements 
could be supported by established and well known standards, such as 
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61508 and 61511.
    BSEE has determined that no revision is needed here because these 
issues are addressed by our existing SEMS requirements at Part 250 
subpart S, which are performance-based. The SEMS requirements are 
primarily based on API RP 75, which was specifically developed for the 
offshore oil and gas industry. The operator's SEMS must meet or exceed 
the standard of safety and environmental protection of API RP 75. The 
goal of the operator's SEMS is to promote safety and environmental 
protection by ensuring all personnel aboard a facility are complying 
with the policies and procedures identified in the operator's SEMS.
    One commenter recommended adding a requirement that the operator 
train personnel for the environmental conditions present in the Arctic. 
The commenter asserted that an understanding of wind chill, frostbite, 
and proper safety procedures around ice-covered equipment is as 
necessary as having arctic-grade hydraulic fluid in the lines.
    BSEE agrees that a well-trained crew plays an important role in 
achieving safe and professional drilling operations. We believe that 
the training requirements in our current regulations provide the basis 
for appropriate training for crews working in Arctic conditions. 
Section 250.1501, What is the goal of my training program?, requires 
training to ensure that employees and contractors can perform the 
duties associated with their jobs, and Sec.  250.1915, What training 
criteria must be in my SEMS program?, requires implementation of a 
training program developed in accordance with employee duties and 
responsibilities for use in the SEMS programs. BSEE also believes that 
the requirement of Sec.  250.473 to address human factors associated 
with Arctic OCS conditions can and should include training designed to 
address such factors. These regulatory provisions seek to ensure that 
operators provide for adequate training of workers specific to their 
positions and the conditions under which they will perform.
What are the auditing requirements for my SEMS program? (Sec.  
250.1920)
    BSEE proposed to revise existing Sec.  250.1920 to increase the 
audit frequency and facility coverage for intermittent Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling operations. While operators are generally required 
to conduct their SEMS audit every 3 years after their initial audit, 
BSEE proposed to require a SEMS audit of Arctic OCS exploratory 
drilling operations and all related infrastructure each year in which 
drilling is conducted, because of the particularly challenging 
conditions and high-risk nature of those activities. This Arctic OCS 
audit would require operators to ensure that all safety systems are in 
place and functional prior to commencing or resuming activities for a 
new drilling season, as well as to conduct the offshore portion of the 
audit while drilling is under way. An operator conducting Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling operations may not combine its Arctic OCS facility 
audit(s) with audits of its non-Arctic OCS facilities to satisfy the 
facility sampling requirements incorporated into Subpart S.
    Many comments were received on this section. BSEE has reviewed the 
comments, and made various technical edits in response to the comments. 
The remaining substantive provisions of Sec.  250.1920 are finalized as 
proposed, as discussed herein.
    Several commenters generally support this provision. Three of these 
commenters supported the requirement for annual SEMS audits with 
suggested revisions. One commenter recommended that the new provision 
clearly state that BSEE will ensure that any identified non-compliance 
in the onshore audit is remedied prior to the

[[Page 46533]]

start of drilling, and that the operator will be required to 
immediately notify BSEE of any non-compliance identified in the 
offshore audit so that BSEE can make an immediate and informed decision 
on whether to allow continued offshore operations. Another of the 
commenters suggested that the time frame for submittal of the audit 
report be expedited to 15 days, and that the Corrective Action Plan 
(CAP) include a plan to remedy all deficiencies or nonconformities no 
later than 30 days after the offshore portion of the audit. Similarly, 
a commenter suggested a review strategy be put in place allowing for 
evaluation of the management strategies and regulations instituted 
under this final rule during the off season to mandate that recent 
experience as well as advances in technology and systems design always 
be used to improve the effectiveness of the operator's SEMS.
    BSEE agrees that an annual SEMS audit is a prudent requirement for 
Arctic OCS exploratory drilling. BSEE also recognizes that the audit 
requirement implicates more than simply having a management system in 
place. An audit of a good management system will identify ways that the 
management system is meeting its objective of hazard identification and 
risk management. The same audit is just as likely to identify ways that 
the management system is functioning but can do a better job.
    BSEE is not changing the schedule for submittal of audit findings 
in this final rule. Developing a comprehensive audit report and 
effective CAP within 30 days of an audit will require considerable 
discipline and focus. BSEE believes that a shorter time frame would 
compromise the quality of both submittals. In addition, the time frame 
to complete any proposed corrective actions should not be specified in 
the rule, as the appropriate time frame for correction is largely 
dependent upon the nature of the nonconformity. This will continue to 
be a subject for discussion between the operator and BSEE as currently 
allowed by the regulation. With respect to BSEE's ability to ensure 
timely compliance, finalized Sec.  250.1920(g) provides that, ``if BSEE 
determines that the CAP or progress toward implementing the CAP is not 
satisfactory, BSEE may order you to shut down all or part of your 
operations.''
    BSEE also does not believe that it is necessary to specify that 
off-season evaluation of the SEMS needs to be performed. Operators have 
discretion within their own management systems on how to identify and 
prioritize continual improvement opportunities, and our specifying how 
to do this could be counterproductive. Finally, BSEE believes that the 
schedule for submittal of the audit findings will allow BSEE to 
intervene quickly if a management system is not in place, as when an 
operator's continual improvement efforts appear inadequate.
    Several commenters request that BSEE remove the annual auditing 
requirements of Sec.  250.1920(b)(5). The commenters assert that such a 
frequency of auditing is not needed, has not been justified, and will 
not have an impact on safety or compliance because an operator's SEMS 
program does not typically change on an annual basis. In addition, 
commenters state that existing BSEE regulations require an audit of the 
SEMS program on a three-year cycle, which has worked effectively for 
operations in the Gulf of Mexico and they assert should be more than 
adequate for operations in the Arctic OCS. One commenter suggests that 
an annual audit frequency may actually reduce health, safety, security, 
and environmental performance, and requiring an annual SEMS audit on 
existing operations will result in added time delay to conduct audits 
without any demonstrated improvement to safety.
    BSEE disagrees with these comments. Operators engaging in 
exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS will be managing risks that are 
novel and untested compared to those encountered in the Gulf of Mexico. 
Arctic operations are seasonal and will include mobilization and 
demobilization activities each year within short time windows. Changes 
to an operator's management system (both in design and in the personnel 
who will be relied upon to implement it) are likely to be required as 
new hazards are recognized and managed, and as contractors rotate in 
and out of the field. Accordingly, an operator's Arctic SEMS program 
will likely change over the course of a year. Annual auditing is a way 
to determine if the organization is continually improving its 
management system as it gains experience with the new risks and the 
changing environmental and organizational conditions. If an operator 
finds that audit results do not contribute to improved approaches to 
safety and environmental protection, then it is possible that the audit 
approach needs to be changed rather than resorting to a less frequent 
audit.
    Several commenters suggest additions to the content of SEMS audits 
for exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS. One of the 
commenters suggests the SEMS audit should be extended to address the 
status of key barriers and assess ice management, as well as evaluate 
the Arctic operator's safety culture. Another of the commenters asked 
that the SEMS audit include a focus on contractor management and 
oversight. One of the commenters suggests the proposed regulatory text 
be revised to include a reference to the onshore portion of the audit 
incorporating a physical audit of all major equipment proposed in the 
EP and APD (including at a minimum the drilling rig, SCCE, relief rig, 
and support vessels) to verify this equipment is ready and capable. The 
commenter also recommended the revision address the offshore portion of 
the audit, including requiring a physical audit of all equipment used 
to execute the EP and APD in the Arctic OCS while drilling is underway. 
The same commenter asked that the SEMS audit require an audit of 100 
percent of the equipment instead of 100 percent of the facilities.
    BSEE agrees that those who audit Arctic operations need to examine 
contractor management elements of their SEMS, as well as review the 
barrier analysis and barrier readiness aspects, including ice 
management, weather and ice forecasting, ice and marine mammal 
monitoring, and response to ice encroachment. BSEE notes, under 
existing Sec. Sec.  250.1914 and 250.1924, BSEE has broad authority to 
require operators on the Arctic OCS to provide BSEE with appropriate 
contractor information, such as the names of contractors and the 
specific scope of their duties and timelines for performance in support 
of an operator's drilling activities. For example, if an operator 
planned to use a contractor for waste disposal, cementing, or logging, 
BSEE would expect the operator to inform BSEE of this intent, along 
with any other operations contracted out, and the names of those 
contractors. BSEE intends to work with the Accreditation Bodies it 
names pursuant to Sec.  250.1922 to define and hold auditors 
accountable for evaluating the management system's effectiveness in 
addressing these risk areas.
    BSEE disagrees that the scope of the audit should include 
inspection of equipment. The purpose of a management system audit is to 
determine if the processes and systems adopted by an operator to manage 
risk are in place and effective, not to test and inspect the 
functionality of every piece of equipment within the management system. 
BSEE conducts thorough facility and equipment inspections through its 
own inspection program. See, e.g., Sec. Sec.  250.130 through 250.133.
    One commenter expressed concern that there would be a shortage of

[[Page 46534]]

qualified independent third party auditors.
    BSEE disagrees that a possible shortage of qualified auditors 
should be a basis for challenging the annual SEMS audit requirement on 
the Arctic OCS. The commenter did not provide evidence that there is or 
will be a shortage of qualified auditors, or that the marketplace would 
not be able to respond appropriately.
    One commenter requested further clarification on the associated 
responsibility, accountability and liability BSEE will assume in the 
event of any incidents occurring as a direct result of what the 
commenter describes as BSEE seeking to direct active drilling 
operations. The commenter urges BSEE to leave key operational decision-
making in the hands of the operators and focus the regulations on 
ensuring that drilling plans and operations are risk based and fit for 
purpose for every proposed location.
    BSEE does not direct active drilling operations, nor intend to do 
so in the future through this rule. Operators responsible for directing 
the drilling operations are required to do so safely and in accordance 
with the regulations. BSEE has the authority to require compliance with 
the regulations, but in doing so does not assume any accountability or 
liability for incidents arising from the regulated operations. It is 
the operator's responsibility to conduct its activities both safely and 
in accordance with its regulatory obligations. Operators must also have 
access to all of the information needed to make their own decisions on 
how to mitigate safety and environmental impacts from the hazards they 
will face. One purpose of the SEMS audit is for the operator to gain a 
third-party assessment of their own ability to effectively manage 
risks. BSEE does not use the results of the SEMS audit to tell 
operators how to manage the risks, but instead evaluates those results 
as one part of its oversight responsibilities to ensure that the 
operators have systems in place that are effectively risk-focused and 
fit for purpose.
    One commenter asked that BSEE consider a Safety Case approach to 
ensure functionality of Health Safety and Environment and Quality 
management systems, and compliance of rigs and contractors, similar to 
the approach established on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and in the 
United Kingdom.
    BSEE declines to adopt this suggestion. BSEE has adopted a hybrid 
approach to safety and environmental regulation on the OCS. BSEE and 
BOEM have determined that Arctic exploratory drilling operations should 
be guided by a number of specific requirements to ensure protection of 
workers and the environment. We note that the final rule clearly allows 
for specific requirements to be met by employing new and emergent 
technology, when appropriate. Given the significant risks associated 
with Arctic drilling operations, complete reliance on a safety case 
approach, in the view of BSEE and BOEM, does not offer enough 
regulatory oversight.
Oil Spill Response
Part 254--Oil-Spill Response Requirements for Facilities Located 
Seaward of the Coast Line
Definitions. (Sec.  254.6)
    BSEE proposed to insert in the proper alphabetical order new 
definitions for Adverse weather conditions, Arctic OCS and Ice 
intervention practices to existing Sec.  254.6. One comment was 
received to the definition for Adverse weather conditions and is 
discussed below. No other comments were received on the proposed 
addition of the definitions and the provisions are finalized as 
proposed.
    One commenter claimed that the revised definition for Adverse 
Weather Conditions disregards the safety of responders and would set in 
place operating limits that would delay the cessation of response 
activities until equipment is destroyed or responders are fatally 
injured. The commenter suggests that BSEE replace the definition with 
language adopted from the State of Alaska's regulations, which require 
a plan holder to define realistic maximum response operating 
limitations, as per 18 AAC 75.425(e)(3)(D).
    BSEE disagrees with this comment. The final rule adds the terms 
``extreme cold, freezing spray, snow, and extended periods of low 
light'' to the list of conditions in the existing definition that may 
degrade the operating environment on the Arctic OCS. Adopting these 
terms in the final rule provides a more thorough description of the 
types of challenges a plan holder's response resources must be prepared 
to address in responding to a discharge on the Arctic OCS, but in no 
way establishes operational limits, and certainly does not create any 
expectation that responders will continue to operate in life 
threatening conditions. Operating conditions must be continuously 
evaluated and monitored during a response to ensure effective 
operations, but only when it is safe for responders to do so. The 
revised definition continues to state that Adverse Weather does not 
include situations where it would be dangerous to continue responding. 
The State of Alaska's cited regulations require the plan holder to 
define the maximum operating limitations for a mechanical recovery-
based response, and to identify mitigating measures that may be 
instituted when those parameters are exceeded. This State requirement 
in 18 AAC 75.425(e)(3)(D) has a very different focus and intent and is 
not appropriate language for use in revising the definition of Adverse 
Weather Conditions for purposes of implementing the OPA.
OSRPs for Facilities Located in Alaska State Waters Seaward of the 
Coast Line in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. (Sec.  254.55)
    BSEE proposed to add a new Sec.  254.55 requiring the OSRP for any 
facility conducting exploratory drilling from a MODU in Alaska State 
waters seaward of the coast line within the Beaufort or Chukchi Seas to 
address the additional requirements set forth in the new subpart E, as 
finalized in this rulemaking. BSEE has authority under the CWA over oil 
spill response plans related to operations seaward of the coastline, 
including on state submerged lands. 33 U.S.C. 1321(j)(5); E.O. 12777; 
30 CFR part 254, subpart D. Some requirements in subpart E address 
planning and exercises related to the use of source control and subsea 
containment equipment such as capping stacks or containment domes. 
Operators are required to have access to and use this equipment when 
conducting exploratory drilling from a MODU on the Arctic OCS, pursuant 
to finalized regulations in part 250, but those conducting similar 
activities in State waters are not currently subject to the same 
requirements. The State of Alaska, however, has State requirements for 
source control. As such, a response plan covering operations in State 
waters of the Beaufort or Chukchi Seas must address how the source 
control procedures selected to comply with State law would be 
integrated into the planning, training, and exercise requirements of 
proposed Sec. Sec.  254.70(a) and 254.90(c).
    Several comments were received on this section. BSEE has reviewed 
the comments and determined to finalize Sec.  254.55 as proposed for 
the reasons stated herein.
    One commenter requested that BSEE closely coordinate its OSRP 
requirements with the State of Alaska's requirements.
    BSEE agrees, and for offshore facilities in State waters seaward of 
the coast line, BSEE will consult with the State to

[[Page 46535]]

coordinate planning processes where possible. We note this rulemaking 
does not alter in any way the existing authorities or jurisdiction of 
BSEE or the State of Alaska. In addition, we note that, pursuant to 
existing Sec.  254.53, operators in State waters may still rely upon 
OSRPs developed in accordance with the laws or regulations of Alaska, 
with certain modifications. Additionally, BSEE has a separate 
regulatory study underway that is evaluating the use of more specific 
deployment and response capability standards for each OCS region where 
oil and gas exploration and production is occurring. BSEE will review 
the State of Alaska's standards for facilities in State waters as part 
of this study, and will harmonize any future standards when it deems it 
is appropriate.
    One commenter stated that the term ``source control'' is different 
than the term used in State requirements, which is ``contain and 
control'', and that using different terms will be problematic.
    BSEE's position is this rulemaking addresses Federal requirements 
for offshore facilities in State waters seaward of the coast line, and 
does not impact state requirements. The State and Federal terms, while 
slightly different, are effectively similar in nature, and should not 
create any confusion for plan holders with respect to complying with 
either State or Federal regulations. While it is beneficial to use 
harmonized terms whenever possible between State and Federal 
regulations, it is just as important that Federal regulations use 
terminology that is consistent across various Federal rules and 
agencies. The term ``source control'' is defined in the National 
Contingency Plan as the construction, installation and startup of 
actions necessary to prevent the continued release of hazardous 
substances or pollutants or contaminants into the environment.\44\ 
Source control is a consistently used term in other response-oriented 
doctrinal publications, such as the National Preparedness for Response 
Exercise Program (PREP) Guidelines and the USCG Incident Management 
Handbook.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \44\ 40 CFR 300.5; See generally 40 CFR part 300, National Oil 
and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Subpart E--Oil-Spill Response Requirements for Facilities Located on 
the Arctic OCS
Purpose. (Sec.  254.65)
    A new Sec.  254.65 was proposed to state the purpose for subpart E, 
described as establishing additional requirements for preparing OSRPs 
and maintaining preparedness for facilities conducting exploratory 
drilling operations from a MODU on the Arctic OCS. No comments were 
received on the proposed addition of this section and, with exception 
of one minor technical edit, the section is finalized as proposed.
What are the additional requirements for facilities conducting 
exploratory drilling from a MODU on the Arctic OCS? (Sec.  254.70)
    BSEE proposed adding Sec.  254.70 addressing general oil spill 
response planning requirements for operators using MODUs to conduct 
exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS. These requirements include 
incorporating the support mechanisms for capping stacks, cap and flow 
systems, containment domes, and other similar subsea and surface 
devices and equipment and vessels, required by finalized Sec.  250.471, 
into oil spill response incident action planning. They would also 
require operators to address the influence of adverse weather 
conditions on responders' health and safety during spill response 
activities. Finally, they would require operators, prior to resuming 
seasonal exploratory drilling activities, to review their OSRPs, and 
modify as necessary, to address changes to the location or status of 
response resources or the arrangements for supporting logistical 
infrastructure arising from extended periods of time without drilling.
    Several comments were received on this section. BSEE has reviewed 
the comments and with the exception of one technical edit, the 
provisions of Sec.  254.70 are finalized as proposed for the reasons 
discussed herein.
    Many commenters recommend that BSEE should include an opportunity 
for public review and comment for OSRPs that address operations on the 
Arctic OCS.
    BSEE disagrees. The National Response System that was set up under 
the CWA and the OPA establishes a system of plans, including a National 
Contingency Plan, regional contingency plans, area contingency plans, 
and facility and vessel response plans. National, regional, and area 
level plans all set policy on the use of oil spill countermeasures and 
all relevant strategies, and identify how sensitive resources must be 
protected. Regulatory agencies promulgate regulatory requirements for 
industry OSRPs, consistent with these higher-level plans requiring 
industry plan holders to have access to the requisite amounts and types 
of response capabilities. Agency review and approval of these plans is 
limited to ensuring the plans are consistent with national, regional, 
and area level guidance and ensuring the plans meet the pre-established 
regulatory requirements for capabilities and preparedness arrangements. 
Public comment and review is not necessary for the Agency to complete 
its review of the OSRP for compliance with the regulations, nor is 
there a meaningful role for the public where the pre-established 
standards of review leave little to no room for discretion. Under this 
existing paradigm, none of the industry response plans regulated by the 
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), EPA, 
USCG or BSEE are subject to a public review and comment process. BSEE 
believes the most appropriate opportunities for public participation 
and comment on the relevant response issues are during the public 
comment periods associated with the oil and gas lease sales and EPs, 
public comment periods during the rulemaking process for establishing 
industry response plan regulatory requirements, and through interaction 
with the Area Committees, who develop the local Oil Spill Area 
Contingency Plans that provide guidance on the use of spill response 
countermeasures as well as protection strategies for specific sensitive 
habitats and species. In the case of the Arctic OCS, BSEE encourages 
interested parties to engage with the Alaska Regional Response Team, 
whose members include: The USCG; NOAA; Federal Emergency Management 
Agency; Federal Aviation Administration; General Services 
Administration; State of Alaska Department of Environmental 
Conservation; EPA; and Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, 
State, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, and Labor, as well 
as the Northwest Alaska and North Slope SubArea Committees.
    One commenter suggests that BSEE should develop the OSRP 
requirements using a risk-based environmental assessment process and 
design the response capabilities to address the specific risks of a 
spill from the offshore facility.
    BSEE agrees with the commenter's concern, but notes the baseline 
requirements for an OSRP within Sec.  254.26 already contain many 
provisions that are founded upon risk assessment processes. For 
example, plan holders must use oil spill trajectories from their 
offshore facility to assess any spill risks to resources and habitats, 
and design response capabilities appropriately. While this rulemaking 
adds additional detail that is necessary

[[Page 46536]]

to ensure the oil spill preparedness measures are adequately designed 
for operating in the Arctic environment, it does not impose a new 
system of risk assessment processes for developing OSRPs upon plan 
holders that is outside of what currently exists in Part 254 or was 
proposed in the NPRM. Plan holders are free to adopt risk-based methods 
in developing their OSRP response strategies, as long as those 
strategies are in compliance with the regulatory requirements.
    One commenter asserted that the type and number of resources that 
should be maintained in an area should reflect the most probable spill 
events that might occur.
    BSEE disagrees. The OPA and BSEE's OSRP regulations require 
industry to plan for their WCD to the maximum extent practicable as a 
planning standard, and not for the size of their most probable spill, 
which would be considerably smaller. While response resources are 
strategically staged throughout the coastal zone near OCS regions where 
drilling occurs, BSEE acknowledges that in some cases equipment will be 
cascaded in from more distant areas in order to respond to a WCD, 
especially in the Arctic OCS.
    One commenter suggests the regulations should allow for all types 
of response mechanisms to be in place, including the use of dispersants 
and in situ burning.
    BSEE agrees industry OSRPs should include provisions for all of the 
oil spill response capabilities that are allowed for and consistent 
with the guidance contained within the relevant Regional and Area 
Contingency Plans (RCPs/ACPs). In the Arctic OCS, the guidance 
regarding, and strategies for, the use of dispersants and in situ 
burning is contained within the Unified Alaska Plan and the North Slope 
SubArea Contingency Plans. BSEE's OSRP regulations currently allow for 
the listing of both dispersants and in situ burning capabilities within 
industry OSRPs. A regulatory study entitled, ``Oil Spill Response 
Equipment Capabilities Analysis,'' is currently underway that is 
considering additional requirements for ensuring the availability of 
these spill countermeasures in all areas of the OCS where drilling is 
occurring or may occur, including the Arctic.
    One commenter suggested that the duration of a WCD required by 
Sec.  254.26(a) for drilling operations should be extended beyond 30 
days to whichever is greater, a period of 45 days or the time it would 
take to drill a relief well. The commenter further recommended that the 
method to calculate the WCD daily flow rate should be amended and based 
on offset well data; if no offset well is available, the commenter 
recommended that minimum default values of 61,000 barrels of oil per 
day for wells in the Chukchi Sea, and 25,000 barrels of oil per day for 
wells in the Beaufort Sea, should be adopted.
    BSEE agrees in part. Based on the lessons learned from the 
Deepwater Horizon response, BSEE released National Notice to Lessees 
and Operators of Federal Oil and Gas Leases and Pipeline Right-of-Way 
Holders (NTL) No. 2012-N06, ``Guidance to Owners and Operators of 
Offshore Facilities Seaward of the Coast Line Concerning Regional Oil 
Spill Response Plans.'' NTL No. 2012-N06 encourages operators to 
identify sources for supplies and materials that can support a response 
to an uncontrolled spill lasting longer than 30 days. However, BSEE has 
determined that further study is required before revising 30 CFR part 
254 to extend the duration of a WCD. BSEE has a regulatory study 
entitled, ``Oil Spill Response Equipment Capabilities Analysis,'' 
underway to consider various options for amending the period of time 
for which an operator must plan to support response operations. With 
regard to daily flow rates, Sec.  254.47 states that an operator must 
calculate the size of their WCD scenario as the daily volume possible 
from an uncontrolled blowout, but does not go into detail about how 
that flow rate calculation must be made. Rather, the daily flow rate 
information referenced in the OSRP is based upon data generated earlier 
in the permitting process for the associated EP as required by BOEM in 
Sec.  550.213(g) and NTL No. 2015-N01, ``Information Requirements for 
Exploration Plans, Development and Production Plans, and Development 
Operations Coordination Documents on the OCS for Worst Case Discharge 
and Blowout Scenarios''. BSEE does not believe that it would be 
appropriate to institute minimum default values in lieu of the 
prescribed methodology.
    Two commenters indicated the regulations should provide more 
detailed guidance on what oil spill planning and response capabilities 
should be required to adequately respond to an oil spill in the Arctic. 
One of the commenters provided detailed recommendations for what those 
requirements and capabilities should entail.
    The existing regulations in Sec.  254.26 provide a broad 
performance-based planning standard for establishing a plan holder's 
WCD identifying the anticipated impacts, and ensuring the availability 
of enough response and supporting resources to protect or clean up the 
environment from such a discharge. BSEE is reviewing the possibility of 
providing more detailed requirements for response capabilities in a 
future rulemaking, and will consider the recommendations provided in 
these comments as an input for that process. Until that time, it is the 
plan holder's responsibility to develop response capabilities that will 
satisfactorily meet the existing planning standard.
    One commenter argued that most drilling in the Arctic is in 
extremely shallow water from gravel islands, and that use of SCCE 
equipment in those cases is not practicable.
    BSEE agrees. The SCCE requirements of this rulemaking only apply to 
MODUs conducting exploration drilling, and therefore would not apply to 
shallow water drilling from gravel islands.
    Two commenters assert that adding SCCE information to the OSRP 
would confuse responders and unnecessarily increase the size of the 
OSRP. The commenters suggest that SCCE information should be kept in a 
separate planning document, and one of the commenters specifically 
recommended that OSRPs reference well containment plans instead.
    BSEE agrees in part. SCCE are critical capabilities required for 
certain plan holders in order for them to meet their requirements in 
existing Sec.  254.26(d) for responding to their WCD. Further, SCCE 
will be deployed and utilized alongside spill response equipment, 
necessitating coordinated planning for an integrated approach to a loss 
of well control. As such, OSRPs must include certain essential 
information about SCCE capabilities. BSEE agrees that most SCCE 
information can be maintained in separate well control-oriented 
planning documents (as required by Sec.  550.220(c)(3) (EPs) and Sec.  
250.470(f) (APDs)) as long as they are properly referenced in the OSRP. 
However, incidents, such as the Macondo Well blowout, demonstrate that 
source control activities need to be better coordinated with the 
overall management of the larger incident and other response 
operations, and they validate the need for additional source control 
information in the OSRPs. Accordingly, the OSRP should outline how the 
management structure established for the overall incident response will 
coordinate SCCE activities. BSEE believes the inclusion of this 
critical information in the OSRP will improve clarity for all 
responders rather than create confusion, and will

[[Page 46537]]

not appreciably increase the size of the OSRP documents.
    One commenter recommended the Arctic-specific regulations contain 
milestones that ensure timely deployment of well control equipment in 
concert with oil spill response equipment.
    BSEE agrees and has determined the final rule addresses the 
commenter's recommendation. Regulatory requirements finalized in other 
parts of this final rule, such as Sec. Sec.  250.470, 250.471 and 
250.472, contain new standards for the deployment of well control 
equipment in the Arctic and include timelines for deployment. We note, 
however, that although the commenter's concern is addressed in part 250 
of this final rule, part 254 currently does not contain any specific 
timelines for the deployment of spill response equipment.
    Two commenters request that BSEE require plan holders to describe 
how they will respond in adverse weather conditions.
    BSEE agrees. Existing Sec.  254.26(d) requires plan holders to 
discuss how they will respond to their WCD scenario in adverse weather 
conditions. The purpose of subpart E is to provide additional 
regulatory detail to address Arctic-specific issues and challenges. The 
finalized requirements in Sec.  254.70(b) require an operator to 
describe how they will address certain human factors, such as cold 
stress and cold-related conditions that are likely to become challenges 
due to the adverse nature of Arctic OCS conditions. Additionally, the 
finalized requirements in Sec.  254.80(a) and (b) require an operator 
to describe how they will adapt and sustain their response techniques 
during adverse conditions that occur in the Arctic OCS operating 
environment.
    One commenter recommended that operators be required to provide 
detailed statistical assessments for identifying curtailment thresholds 
that will limit operations or pose safety hazards to responders in 
Arctic conditions, and that this assessment should be used to establish 
the end of season operational dates at Sec.  550.220(c)(6).
    BSEE agrees in part. Section 254.70(b) requires operators to 
describe how they will address Arctic challenges in adverse weather 
conditions. While it is prudent for operators to identify and address 
recommended operating limits in their safety procedures, decisions to 
suspend response operations due to safety concerns must be made on a 
case by case basis and must consider all the conditions in place at 
that point in time. Operational safety decisions cannot be projected 
forward based on a statistical analysis of past seasonal conditions; 
however, the general limitations on an operator's' ability to conduct 
an oil spill response due to expected site conditions are considered by 
BOEM when establishing end-of-season dates.
    One commenter suggests the requirements of Sec.  254.70 should be 
more performance-based and focus on management practices.
    BSEE agrees in part. The OSRP regulations are designed to strike a 
balance between performance-based standards that afford an operator the 
flexibility to develop an OSRP that meets the specific needs of its 
offshore facility and more detailed prescriptive requirements ensuring 
an OSRP meets the underlying statutory requirements. Many of the 
provisions contained throughout part 254 are performance-based in 
nature, while many others address the management practices of the 
operator to organize and respond to their WCD. BSEE believes that Sec.  
254.70 appropriately strikes that balance as written.
    One commenter asserted that the provision in Sec.  254.2(b), which 
allows a facility to operate while BSEE reviews the plan, should be 
removed for operations in the Arctic OCS.
    BSEE agrees in part, however the proposed rule did not contain any 
amendments to the requirements of Sec.  254.2. These administrative 
practices have been successfully followed for many years for OSRPs in 
other OCS regions, and are particularly well suited for certain 
situations, such as the transfer of ownership of an existing facility 
to a new operator who will now operate the facility under the new 
owner's existing regional OSRP. BSEE acknowledges that the provision in 
Sec.  254.2(b) is not as well suited for the review and approval of new 
OSRPs covering exploratory drilling in the Arctic, where the challenges 
associated with operating in this frontier environment have made the 
review and approval of OSRPs more complex and controversial in the 
public eye. As such, BSEE will look to clarify the overall 
applicability of these procedures in a separate rulemaking that will 
update Part 254, including Sec.  254.2. Finally, it should be noted 
that all operators on the Arctic OCS in recent years have had their 
OSRP approved well in advance of conducting any drilling operations at 
their lease sites.
    One commenter asserted that all existing OSRPs should be updated to 
meet the new requirements of this rulemaking within 90 days.
    BSEE disagrees. The final rule states that the requirements 
contained in this rulemaking will become effective 60 days after the 
date of publication in the Federal Register. At the time of finalizing 
this rulemaking, there currently are no approved or pending OSRPs 
involving exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS from a MODU.
What additional information must I include in the ``Emergency response 
action plan'' section for facilities conducting exploratory drilling 
from a MODU on the Arctic OCS? (Sec.  254.80)
    BSEE also proposed to create a new Sec.  254.80 focusing on 
additional information requirements for the emergency response action 
plan section of an OSRP when the operator proposes to conduct 
exploratory drilling operations from a MODU on the Arctic OCS. The 
additional requirements would include specifics regarding ice 
intervention practices, staging considerations, and tracking abilities.
    Several comments were received on this section. BSEE has evaluated 
the comments and made various technical edits as discussed herein. 
Otherwise, the substantive provisions of Sec.  254.80 are finalized as 
proposed.
    Many commenters assert that the regulations must include 
requirements ensuring Arctic-grade response capabilities for equipment, 
materials and personnel capable of operating in Arctic conditions, 
including fog, adverse sea states, and ice.
    BSEE agrees and has determined this recommendation is met in our 
existing regulations. Section 254.26(e) states that operators must 
ensure that the response equipment, materials, support vessels, and 
strategies listed are suitable, within the limits of current 
technology, for the range of environmental conditions anticipated at 
your facility. Furthermore, Sec.  254.80(a) requires that operators, 
who are developing ice intervention practices, must consider the use of 
specialized tactics, modified response equipment, ice management assist 
vessels, and technologies for the identification, tracking, containment 
and removal of oil in ice.
    One commenter requested that BSEE delete the requirements of 
proposed Sec.  254.80 as redundant to existing regulations in part 254. 
The commenter asserted that the requirement for ice intervention 
practices is redundant with the requirements of existing Sec.  
550.220(b), which requires an Ice Management Plan (IMP), a component of 
the Critical Operations and Curtailment procedures, and that the OSRP 
should simply reference the procedures contained within the IMP.
    BSEE disagrees. The proposed requirements in Sec.  254.80 address

[[Page 46538]]

aspects of oil spill response preparedness, as opposed to operational 
preparedness, that are specific to meeting the challenges of operating 
in the Arctic OCS. While the requirements finalized here somewhat 
mirror the basic oil spill preparedness requirements existing in the 
OSRP regulations, they are not redundant of the IMP and add an 
important layer of additional detail that is necessary to set 
expectations for preparedness to respond to spills in the Arctic. The 
IMP addresses how ice floes will be managed to protect drilling 
operations and procedures for stopping, and if necessary, disengaging, 
drilling operations due to the encroachment of sea ice. Ice 
intervention practices have a completely different purpose, and are 
focused on improving the effectiveness of spill response 
countermeasures in the presence of sea ice. Both are distinct and 
necessary elements of the regulations.
    One commenter recommended that ice intervention practices should 
address how response equipment will address challenges associated with 
response in the Arctic.
    BSEE agrees. The intent of the requirement for a description of the 
operator's ice intervention practices was to ensure plan holders 
evaluated their capabilities and ensured they are adequately prepared 
and trained to effectively operate in expected Arctic conditions.
    One commenter asserted that the requirement for ice intervention 
practices is limited to mechanical recovery.
    BSEE disagrees with this statement, and reiterates that the 
operator should develop ice intervention practices for each response 
countermeasure listed in the OSRP. The preamble discussion in the NPRM 
states that an operator's ice intervention practices should improve oil 
encounter rates for all removal or mitigation techniques, including 
dispersants and in situ burning.
    One commenter asserted that BSEE should conduct further studies 
regarding the challenges involved with responding to a spill in the 
Arctic, such as responding in the presence of ice.
    BSEE agrees and is continually reviewing ongoing research study 
reports as well as funding numerous studies of its own to better 
understand all aspects of responding to oil spills in Arctic 
conditions. BSEE uses that information to better inform its efforts to 
develop regulations and assess a plan holder's preparedness to respond 
to oil spills.
    One commenter recommended that, in addition to requiring the 
development of ice intervention practices, BSEE provide specific 
recovery equipment performance standards for recovering oil in the 
Arctic. Specifically, the commenter recommended that BSEE adopt a 
standard similar to the State of Alaska requirement at 18 AAC 
75.445(g)(5).
    BSEE agrees with the intent of the comment, but has determined the 
commenter's concern is addressed in existing regulations. BSEE reviewed 
the standard contained within 18 AAC 75.445(g)(5) and found that the 
existing requirements in Sec.  254.44 already establish an equipment 
performance planning standard that is equivalent in nature. In 
addition, BSEE has an ongoing regulatory study underway to evaluate 
potential revisions to the requirements contained in Sec.  254.44, 
including a revised equipment planning standard that would be based on 
oil encounter rate and recovery system-based performance. This revised 
planning standard may be incorporated into the regulations for all 
OSRPs, including those in the Arctic OCS, at a later date in a future 
rulemaking.
    Several commenters recommend the provisions in the Arctic-specific 
regulations should be informed by research into oil behavior and spill 
response techniques in ice, and that flexibility must exist to select 
the most effective strategies in context of the spill situation.
    BSEE agrees with both of these points. Both government and industry 
are conducting extensive research on oil behavior and the use of 
appropriate spill response techniques in ice. BSEE's development of its 
regulatory requirements, as well as its plan review and approval 
processes, is informed by this information. BSEE also supports the use 
of a process to compare the environmental outcomes associated with 
using various response techniques and countermeasures in order to 
assess and select the most appropriate response technologies for use 
during an event. However, the selection and use of response 
technologies during a spill event is governed by EPA regulations 
contained within the NCP, and by the FOSC, which is a pre-designated 
senior USCG official. BSEE is not dictating the selection or use of any 
particular strategies for responding to any specific spill situation 
through its regulations or the OSRP process.
    One commenter suggested that OSRPs should include information that 
outlines when dispersants will be used and when their use will not be 
allowed.
    BSEE disagrees. A plan holder does not have the authority to 
prescribe the conditions or required outcomes that must be present for 
dispersants to be used during a response. The use of dispersants is 
governed by the provisions of the NCP, as supplemented by RCPs and 
ACPs, and implemented on a case by case basis under the direction of 
the FOSC.
    One commenter asserted that the OSRP regulations currently limit 
the response to mechanical spill recovery techniques only, and that 
BSEE should allow plan holders to use other response countermeasures 
when their use is appropriate. The commenter also indicated that the 
OSRPs should describe how those countermeasures will be used in the 
presence of sea ice and other Arctic conditions.
    BSEE agrees that plan holders should plan for and prepare to use 
all available technologies and countermeasures to effectively mitigate 
the impacts of a discharge from their facilities, and that such 
planning and preparation should account for the presence of sea ice and 
other Arctic OCS conditions. While the regulations require the 
inclusion of mechanical recovery resources in the response plans, the 
regulations also allow for the listing of dispersants, in situ burning, 
and other response countermeasures in the plans, when using those 
countermeasures would be consistent with the strategies contained 
within the RCPs and ACPs for the area in which the facilities are 
operating. The procedures in the RCPs and ACPs provide the processes 
that a plan holder and the FOSC must follow in selecting the proper 
response countermeasures for a given situation. BSEE also agrees that 
OSRPs for facilities operating in the Arctic should describe how the 
plan holder would implement each countermeasure in ice. The new 
requirement to describe ice intervention practices in Sec.  254.80(a) 
requires the plan holder to describe how they will effectively use each 
countermeasure in the presence of sea ice.
    One commenter recommended that strategies and tactics listed in the 
OSRP, including use of dispersants and burning, should be based on the 
latest regional-specific research, historical oil spill data, field 
tests conducted by the operator or its Oil Spill Response Organization 
(OSRO), and exercises, and environmental analysis.
    While BSEE agrees that response strategies and tactics should be 
informed by all the methods recommended by the commenter, BSEE 
disagrees with their assertion that plan holders are responsible for 
gathering this information, or that plan holders are responsible for 
field testing or validating these strategies and tactics as part of the 
process of developing and

[[Page 46539]]

submitting their OSRPs. Rather, response strategies and tactics are 
developed and approved for use geographically and temporally, and 
should be exercised and validated by the Regional Response Teams and 
Area Committees, and should be contained in the appropriate RCPs and 
ACPs. As such, Regional Response Teams and Area Committees would be the 
appropriate entities to review ongoing trends, new research or testing 
information, and to adjust the response strategies in the RCPs and ACPs 
accordingly. While OSRPs must be consistent with the strategies and 
tactics identified for use in the relevant RCPs and ACPs, their focus 
and purpose is to address how the operator will supply, manage, and 
sustain the necessary response resources for implementing the 
strategies and tactics.
    Two commenters recommend that the requirements in Sec.  254.80 
should contain specific protection and response strategies and maps for 
environmentally sensitive areas and subsistence resources. One of the 
commenters further suggests that plan holders should have response 
personnel and equipment pre-staged near those sensitive sites, and that 
the strategies and equipment should be tested through a plan holder's 
exercise program, prior to being included in an OSRP.
    While BSEE agrees protection and response strategies for sensitive 
resources are a critical part of oil spill response, BSEE disagrees 
that these strategies should be developed by industry plan holders, nor 
does BSEE believe it is feasible for a plan holder to pre-stage 
personnel and equipment throughout the Arctic wherever sensitive 
resources might be located. The correct place for the development of 
protection and response strategies for sensitive areas and resources, 
in accordance with guidance in the NCP, is in the ACP. In this case, 
the appropriate place would be within the North Slope SubArea 
Contingency Plan. Existing regulations do, however, require that 
operators address strategies for protecting environmentally sensitive 
areas in their OSRPs. See, e.g., Sec. Sec.  254.23(g) and 254.26(c). 
BSEE does not believe that further treatment of this issue is necessary 
in Sec.  254.80. The Alaska Regional Response Team and the North Slope 
SubArea Committee are responsible for testing and validating these 
strategies. It is not the responsibility of an industry plan holder to 
develop these geographical response strategies, nor is it a requirement 
for a plan holder to test any strategies listed in an ACP prior to 
referencing them in their OSRP.
    One commenter requested clarification regarding what areas under 
section Sec.  254.80(b) would qualify as ``areas of the Arctic OCS 
where a planned shore-based response would not satisfy Sec.  
254.1(a).'' This commenter also requested clarification of the term 
``remote and limited infrastructure'' under Sec.  254.80(b)(2), 
indicating that this term is ambiguous and could change based on 
location and the future progress of the Arctic infrastructure on the 
coastline.
    BSEE acknowledges there is a subjective element to these provisions 
that must be evaluated by the plan holder and agency plan reviewers on 
a case-by-case basis. The intent of the provisions is to ensure that 
plan holders take the steps necessary to ensure they can mobilize and 
sustain a significant oil spill response effort in the Arctic and 
overcome the obstacles presented by the extremely limited 
infrastructure that exists throughout the entire Arctic region. Given 
the development along the Arctic coast, the entire Arctic OCS region 
would qualify for both provisions. BSEE acknowledges this situation 
could change in the future, and thus adopted language that would allow 
the application of these provisions to evolve once an appropriate level 
of infrastructure is developed and put in place. BSEE can document and 
communicate such situations in the future through an NTL or other 
communications with plan holders as such need arises.
    One commenter asserted that situations where an entirely offshore-
based response is necessary, with no support from onshore resources, 
are not unique to the Arctic.
    BSEE agrees this situation does exist, to a degree, for certain 
facilities located far offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. However, in the 
Arctic, unlike the Gulf of Mexico, nearly all OCS exploratory drilling 
falls into this offshore-based category due to the lack of shore-based 
supporting infrastructure in the region. As such, BSEE believes it is 
appropriate to have specific planning requirements to address this 
aspect of responding on the Arctic OCS.
    One commenter suggests replacing the phrase ``adverse weather 
conditions'' in Sec.  254.80(b)(1) with the concept of ``realistic 
maximum response operating limits'' (RMROL) from 18 AAC 
75.425(e)(3)(D).
    BSEE agrees plan holders must research the environmental conditions 
for the Arctic OCS area they will be operating in and ensure that the 
resources they acquire will be capable of sustained activity in those 
conditions; however, BSEE does not intend to establish specific 
operating criteria or limits for such equipment. The requirement for 
response equipment to be capable of operating in conditions up to and 
including adverse weather is a longstanding element of OPA requirements 
and is sufficiently covered by other parts of BSEE part 254 
regulations. While the ability to operate in adverse conditions is an 
important element of Sec.  254.80(b)(1), the real purpose of this 
requirement is to establish an offshore-based capability that can 
function without constant resupply from shore side infrastructure.
    One commenter asserted that requiring the pre-staging of response 
equipment reduces the flexibility of the incident commander to respond 
effectively.
    BSEE disagrees. Pre-spill planning, including the identification of 
pre-staging sites, is critical to an effective incident response. 
Incident commanders always have the flexibility to adapt the pre-spill 
planning in the OSRPs to meet the emergent needs of responders during a 
real incident. Therefore, BSEE does not believe that pre-staging 
response equipment reduces the flexibility of the incident commander to 
respond effectively.
    One commenter asserted that additional response resources and 
training of local responders are needed along the coast of the State of 
Alaska. One commenter recommended that agencies with oil spill response 
responsibilities study various locations along the U.S. Arctic coast 
where equipment could be stored and staged, suggesting that such 
emplacements would lead to improved response times for equipment and 
potentially reduced the environmental impacts of an oil spill.
    BSEE agrees that staging of equipment at strategically located 
depots along the State of Alaska coast could have a positive impact on 
oil spill responses that occur in the Arctic. However, the staging of 
response resources is primarily dependent upon the needs of each 
individual plan holder to enable them to respond to their WCD. As such, 
staging of response resources falls to the discretion of the plan 
holder and their OSRPs, with agencies reviewing their arrangements to 
ensure they will meet the planning standards in the regulations. To 
provide flexibility in allowing plan holders to meet their individual 
needs, the regulations do not mandate the use of any particular staging 
location(s) for equipment and personnel that must be used to meet 
response planning standards.
    One commenter asserted that all response resources should be 
located in

[[Page 46540]]

the Arctic prior to the start of drilling operations unless a viable 
logistics plan is in place for cascading in additional response 
supplies.
    BSEE agrees. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Sec.  254.80 require 
operators to list and describe their resources that will be offshore-
based in the immediate area of the drilling operations, as well as 
their logistics resupply chains that will effectively address the 
remote and limited infrastructure that exists in the Arctic.
    One commenter recommended the OSRP contain requirements for pre-
staging equipment in the Russian Arctic, as well as procedures for 
moving response resources into waters under the jurisdiction of Russia.
    BSEE disagrees. The preparedness and response requirements related 
to an oil spill located in Russian waters are governed by the laws and 
regulatory requirements of Russia. The movement of resources and the 
coordination of response activities between the two countries in the 
event of a transboundary oil pollution incident will be addressed by 
the U.S. Department of State and will follow existing bi-lateral and 
multi-lateral agreements that are in place for responding to 
transboundary spills in the Arctic.
What are the additional requirements for exercises of your response 
personnel and equipment for facilities conducting exploratory drilling 
from a MODU on the Arctic OCS? (Sec.  254.90)
    BSEE proposed to create a new Sec.  254.90 that would require 
operators to incorporate the additional requirements contained within 
Sec. Sec.  254.70 and 254.80 into their oil spill response training and 
exercise activities; would require operators to provide notice of the 
commencement of covered operations; and would clarify the authority of 
the Regional Supervisor to conduct exercises, prior to and during 
exploratory drilling operations, to test response preparedness. These 
requirements are all essential to ensuring and verifying an operator's 
readiness to conduct response activities on the Arctic OCS.
    Several comments were received on this section. BSEE has reviewed 
the comments and determined to finalize Sec.  254.90 as proposed for 
the reasons stated herein.
    One commenter recommended that operators conduct mandatory 
equipment demonstrations of response technologies under adverse 
conditions for operations that will occur in the Arctic Ocean.
    BSEE disagrees. Under the requirements of the existing OSRP 
regulations and the implementing guidance contained within the PREP 
Guidelines, the operator must conduct equipment deployment exercises, 
without reference to the operating conditions, for the purposes of 
training, testing, or demonstrating the preparedness, material 
condition, and proficiency of personnel and equipment. These exercises 
are normally conducted under operating conditions that are conducive to 
achieving the deployment exercise objectives while maintaining a 
suitable margin of safety for all participants. BSEE does not believe 
that the increased risks associated with conducting exercises under 
adverse conditions are justified by an attendant increase in 
preparedness.
    One commenter argued that a facility engaged in seasonal use in the 
Arctic will have difficulty complying with the regulatory exercise 
requirements, and that conducting equipment deployment drills that 
focus on ice intervention practices will not be of value during the 
open water season.
    BSEE disagrees. Plan holders drilling only during the open water 
season have the same triennial period to comply with exercise and 
training requirements as all other operators. A plan holder may conduct 
their exercises and training when they deem most appropriate as long as 
they meet the regulatory requirements for the frequency of exercises. 
Incident management team and deployment exercises, designed to test ice 
intervention practices, may be done during the drilling off-season when 
ice is present if that is deemed a more valuable exercise. BSEE 
disagrees that equipment deployment drills focusing on ice intervention 
practices are not of value to operations during the open water season, 
as sea ice can be present throughout the year and would be very 
relevant to an early- or late-season spill response.
    One commenter urges BSEE to remove the provision in Sec.  
254.90(c), under which the BSEE Regional Supervisor may require 
deployment of the capping stack, cap and flow system, and containment 
dome, and other similar subsea and surface devices and equipment and 
vessels, as part of announced or unannounced exercises or compliance 
inspections, due to the disruption it will cause to an already brief 
open water drilling season.
    BSEE acknowledges the concern raised by this comment, and agrees 
that exercises of SCCE, if deemed necessary, should be conducted in a 
manner that minimizes disruptions to operations during the open water 
drilling season. BSEE will retain the provision in the rule to provide 
the Agency with the maximum flexibility possible to exercise its 
preparedness assessment and evaluation responsibilities, as necessary 
to demonstrate the operator's preparedness to respond during active 
operations. However, BSEE will ensure that SCCE deployment exercises 
are designed to minimize disruptions to the drilling season to the 
extent practicable.
    One commenter recommended that any exercises directed by the 
Regional Supervisor should only occur after the plan holder has been 
notified and the particulars of the exercise have been discussed and 
agreed upon by all parties.
    BSEE disagrees. While BSEE acknowledges the value of collaborative 
pre-planning in designing and holding exercises, BSEE reserves the 
discretion and flexibility to hold exercises in both announced and 
unannounced manners, as deemed necessary and appropriate, to assess and 
verify a plan holder's readiness and spill response preparedness. The 
operator's ability to execute its spill response operations with the 
limited notice that would be afforded in a real-word spill scenario is 
a critical aspect of that preparedness. BSEE will notify in advance and 
collaborate with plan holders in designing exercises whenever 
practicable when such procedures are in alignment with BSEE's exercise 
and overall compliance objectives.
    One commenter opposed the provision for exercising equipment 
deployment requirements for SCCE and recommended it be removed due to 
the costs and operational risks involved, and the lack of specificity 
regarding these requirements in the regulations.
    BSEE acknowledges equipment deployment exercises of SCCE are likely 
to be costly and may involve increased operational risks. Currently 
there is no recurring equipment deployment exercise requirement for 
SCCE outside of being directed to do so by the Regional Director or the 
Chief of the Oil Spill Preparedness Division of BSEE. Due to the 
increased costs and risks associated with this activity, BSEE intends 
to use this authority only when it deems it absolutely necessary to 
verify a plan holder's preparedness.
    One commenter asserted that the provision in Sec.  254.90(c) 
allowing the Regional Supervisor to direct the plan holder to deploy 
and operate spill response equipment or SCCE as part of an exercise or 
compliance inspection is contradictory to the information contained 
within the PREP Guidelines

[[Page 46541]]

and MOA OCS-08, and therefore should be revised.
    BSEE disagrees. The PREP Guidelines and USCG/BSEE MOA OCS-08, 
Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs), provide additional guidance on 
how existing regulatory requirements are to be implemented. Any new 
requirements promulgated in a rulemaking would take precedence over 
contradictory content in the PREP Guidelines. However, it is BSEE's 
position that the requirements in this rulemaking and the language 
expressed in PREP and in the MOA are in alignment with respect to 
BSEE's intended posture for exercising SCCE as a capability listed in a 
plan holder's OSRP. BSEE views the deployment of SCCE as a 
demonstration of a response capability necessary to secure and mitigate 
the threat of a potential or actual discharge of oil. Until such time 
when new regulatory requirements for conducting deployment exercises of 
SCCE are promulgated in Part 254, BSEE will continue to implement the 
exercise compliance posture as it has been outlined in the PREP 
Guidelines.
    Two commenters oppose finalizing the requirement for BSEE to direct 
a plan holder to mobilize and deploy equipment during an exercise 
because it will cause confusion over who has oversight authority to 
direct a response during an actual spill.
    BSEE disagrees with this comment. The requirement in Sec.  
254.90(c) only applies to BSEE directing the deployment of response 
equipment in an exercise for the purposes of evaluating a plan holder's 
preparedness, and does not apply to a response during an actual spill. 
For any spill in the coastal zone, the USCG is the FOSC who has overall 
authority to direct oil removal operations. Further information 
regarding the respective coordination between the USCG and BSEE for 
both preparedness and spill response activities is found in USCG/BSEE 
MOA OCS-03, Oil Discharge Planning, Preparedness and Response. BSEE 
does not believe requiring the deployment of response of equipment for 
the purposes of an evaluation will result in confusion during an actual 
spill.
    One commenter requested that the proposed revisions to part 254 
apply to all operations on the Arctic OCS.
    BSEE disagrees and this comment is beyond the scope of this 
rulemaking. While BSEE acknowledges that certain regulatory provisions 
would be beneficial for non-exploratory Arctic OCS activities, such 
provisions are beyond the scope of this rulemaking. BSEE will consider 
extending Arctic-specific provisions to other operations, such as 
drilling from gravel islands, or oil production activities, in a future 
rulemaking.
    One commenter suggested the requirements for conducting exercises 
should be more specific regarding the timing of such exercises.
    BSEE disagrees. Beyond the established frequency requirements in 
the regulations and in the PREP guidance, the timing of conducting 
planned exercises is left to the discretion of the plan holder in order 
to allow them to develop an integrated and effective exercise, 
equipment maintenance, and training cycle that meets their needs.

C. Discussion of Comments on the Initial RIA

    Comments on the initial RIA generally related to the exploratory 
drilling scenario, cost factors used, baseline assumptions and 
benefits. BOEM/BSEE revised cost factors or assumptions and expanded 
the discussion of qualitative benefits for the final RIA. The comments 
received, information provided by commenters and whether changes were 
made in the final rule RIA is discussed herein.
Revised Assumptions
    Several commenters question the assumptions about future levels of 
industry activity in the Arctic OCS contained in the initial RIA.
    We acknowledge the commenters' concern. In accordance with recently 
announced changes in future Arctic exploration plans, such as Shell, 
ConocoPhillips and Statoil's decisions to suspend exploration activity 
offshore Alaska, BOEM and BSEE have revised the exploration scenario in 
the final RIA.\45\ The scenario assumptions have been updated to 
reflect the relinquishment and termination of many Chukchi and Beaufort 
leases. BOEM and BSEE's level of expected Arctic OCS exploration 
activity has been maintained, however the beginning year is no longer 
assumed. The rulemaking exploration scenario aligns activity with 
numbered years instead of calendar years. The result is that the 
Bureaus are not estimating when exploration may begin, but rather the 
likely activity when it does resume. Acknowledging the temporal 
uncertainty of future Arctic exploration allows the public to focus on 
the potential compliance costs and benefits of the rule. The final 
RIA's activity assumptions represent an aggressive exploration scenario 
which presents a likely maximum of the compliance costs expected from 
this rule over the 10 numbered years once Arctic exploration is 
resumed.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \45\ Shell updates on Alaska exploration, September 28, 2015 
press release, http://www.shell.com/global/aboutshell/media/news-and-media-releases/2015/shell-updates-on-alaska-exploration.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The proposed rule's scenario spanned from 2015 to 2024. The final 
RIA scenario spans from year 1 to year 10. Activity assumptions are 
based upon a number of variables that are difficult to predict, 
including the willingness of operators to invest in conducting such 
operations, the availability of assets required to conduct operations, 
and a number of other issues. BOEM and BSEE have made these assumptions 
to ensure that they do not understate costs associated with the final 
rule. The scenario, therefore, includes 10 years with 9 years of active 
exploration and 50 wells drilled.
    Additionally, the exploration activity scenario no longer includes 
an idle relief rig. During the 2015 drilling season, Shell sought to 
use two drilling rigs at different sites and to designate each rig as 
the relief for the other. Because of legal restrictions, Shell 
ultimately only used one rig to conduct drilling operations; the second 
rig remained idle during the drilling season. That rig, however, was 
contracted to perform drilling operations and was located at a 
potential second drilling site. We have concluded that, with clear 
regulatory requirements in place, an operator in the future is most 
likely to productively employ all rigs for active exploratory drilling 
rather than have an idle relief rig. Consistent with this fact we 
acknowledge the capital and operational expenditure for a second Arctic 
rig even though productively employed may not be a company's best use 
of its capital. It may prefer to explore elsewhere or deploy its 
capital on development projects rather than exploration. Companies are 
forced to employ a drilling rig for this potentially less efficient use 
of capital resources. Therefore, we acknowledge that it is not a cost 
free decision for operators and lessees.
    BOEM and BSEE have adopted what we view to be conservative (i.e., 
high side) projections of the Arctic OCS activities that can be 
reasonably anticipated. We assume for purposes of this analysis that 
three operators will be present on the Arctic OCS over the 10-year 
analysis period, with one operator conducting exploratory drilling 
beginning in year two and two additional operators commencing 
exploratory drilling in year 4. These assumptions reflect potential 
activity based on expectation for future Arctic

[[Page 46542]]

leasing. For the total number of exploratory wells on the Arctic OCS, 
we assume four wells in year 2 and year 3 and six wells from year 4 
through year 10. Additionally, the final RIA assumes that: (1) The 
number of wells drilled and the number of APDs submitted to BSEE will 
be equal for each year of the analysis period; (2) each operator will 
submit to BOEM an EP in the year prior to exploratory drilling; and (3) 
an IOP and OSRP will be submitted by each operator in each year prior 
to drilling.
    Two commenters question the difference between the initial RIA and 
the NPRM cost-effectiveness analysis as to the number of operating 
rigs. The commenter cites the initial RIA as assuming one rig operating 
in 2015-2016, two for 2017, and four rigs operating from 2018-2024, and 
the NPRM cost-effectiveness analysis assumes two rigs operating for 
2015-2017 and then four rigs operating from 2018-2024. The commenter 
questioned the difference and concludes that the assumptions would 
result in a ten-year cost of $174 million based on the initial RIA, 
while using the number of operating rigs per year set forth in the NPRM 
scenario would result in a ten-year cost of $204 million. However, the 
commenter points to the average annual cost used in the initial RIA as 
being $19.2 million, which does not match the assumptions outlined in 
either document.
    BOEM and BSEE are aware of the difference in the relief rig 
assumptions between the initial RIA and the NPRM cost effectiveness 
analysis. We decided to use assumptions in the initial RIA that would 
present the likely maximum level of compliance costs, which included 
assuming the presence of a dedicated standby rig for years 2015-2016. 
However, the final RIA assumptions render this difference moot. As 
described above, the scenario for future Arctic exploratory drilling 
operations has been revised. The rig counts throughout the RIA were 
revised for consistency. BOEM and BSEE no longer assume that operators 
will have an idle relief rig and instead assume that operators will 
have all rigs actively engaging in exploratory drilling. The revised 
Arctic exploratory drilling scenario has zero rigs drilling in year 1 
(no operators actively drilling), two rigs drilling in years 2 and 3 
(assuming one operator), and four rigs drilling during years 4 to 10 
(assuming three operators).
    One commenter questioned the assumption related to industry sharing 
oil spill response assets and believes costs should have been 
calculated on the basis of a single industry participant operating in 
the region. The commenter noted the costs were based on an assumption 
of modest growth in the number of operators in the region during the 
next decade, but if fewer operators seek to operate on the Arctic OCS, 
there will also be fewer opportunities for operators to enter into 
contractual agreements to share relief rigs and other oil spill 
response equipment. The commenter stated that, if this occurs, 
operators will need to furnish their own relief rigs and associated 
infrastructure, thereby driving up operating costs.
    The revised assumptions used for the final RIA include years in 
which one operator is operating in the Arctic and other years in which 
multiple operators are engaging in Arctic exploration and can share 
resources. Annual costs show the range of compliance costs from years 2 
and 3 when one operator must bear all of the costs to the later years 
when operators can engage in resource sharing. Even in the beginning of 
the scenario when a single entity operates, we assume that operator has 
two rigs with no standby relief rig, as all operators are assumed to 
actively engage all rigs in exploratory drilling. Regardless of the 
number of operators, whether it be one or more than one, additional 
operating rigs are assumed to be used even with sharing of resources. 
With three operators in year 4, the analysis assumes that there are 
four operating rigs. BOEM and BSEE's compliance cost calculations 
consider the vessels which can be shared between operators (e.g., oil 
spill response vessels) and assume the one operator must pay for all of 
these services in years 2 and 3, but these costs are shared between 
operators in the later years. If we followed the commenter's assumption 
of only one operator, per-well costs would be higher, but the total 
compliance costs would be an underestimate of what they would be in the 
presence of multiple operators. The approach used in the final RIA 
analysis demonstrates the higher per well costs in the early years with 
only one operator, but also recognizes that resources can be shared in 
later years if additional operators enter the region.
    One commenter questioned the Bureaus' assumption that only one 
operator will be operating through 2017, but that relief rigs would be 
cross-assigned between different operators to satisfy the requirement, 
meaning each operator's primary rig would be utilized by the other 
operator as a relief rig in the case of a well control incident. The 
commenter recommended the cost analysis for this time period should not 
be based on cross assignment between operators, as the Bureaus have 
provided no basis on which to assume an operator would bring more than 
one rig to the theater if not for the proposed relief rig requirement.
    We no longer assume that an operator would bring more than one rig 
solely to serve as a standby relief rig. Instead, it is assumed that, 
during years 2 and 3 with one operator, the operator will have two 
operating rigs and will designate each rig as relief rig for the other. 
While it is possible that an operator may have only wanted to drill one 
well in the Arctic (thus not bringing a second rig if not for the 
relief rig requirement), we believe that, from an economic perspective, 
regardless of the relief rig requirement, it would be prudent for an 
operator to bring two rigs to the region. Given the large fixed costs 
of drilling in the Arctic (regardless of this regulation's new 
requirements), the marginal cost of a second rig would likely justify 
the operator to bring two rigs, in that they could share common support 
vessels, etc. The rig count scenario was revised for consistency in the 
final RIA.
    One commenter questioned the initial RIA assumptions that two IOPs 
will be submitted in 2015, however only one EP will be submitted. The 
commenter requested that the Bureaus clarify under what circumstances 
more IOPs than EPs would be submitted in any given year, as the IOP 
requirement is tied to submittal of an EP. The commenter further 
questioned the initial RIA assumptions in Exhibit 3 showing three 
operators working on the Arctic OCS from 2018 to 2024, while the 
numbers of IOPs, EPs, and OSRPs are not in line with that number of 
operators.
    BOEM and BSEE agree that the number of IOPs and EPs should be the 
same. The final RIA revises the IOP and EP assumptions from the 
proposed rule and initial RIA so that a single EP and single IOP per 
operator are submitted in the year prior to exploratory drilling.
Overestimated Costs
    Several commenters assert that the cost assumptions in the initial 
RIA are significantly overestimated and many of the costs of the 
finalized regulatory provisions should be included as baseline costs. 
One commenter expressed concern that the initial RIA overstated the 
costs of the proposed rule by assigning existing baseline costs that 
operators already include in their budgets as incremental costs. The 
commenter noted that many of the regulatory provisions in this final 
rule codify existing industry practices or incorporate existing 
requirements imposed by the Department as a condition of plan approval, 
through an

[[Page 46543]]

NTL or as BAST) methods under Sec.  250.107.
    After reviewing comments, BOEM and BSEE have determined some of the 
costs identified as new regulatory compliance costs in the initial RIA 
are, instead, baseline costs. Costs are considered baseline if they are 
attributable to existing regulatory requirements, industry standards, 
and operator best practices. OMB's Circular A-4 (``Regulatory 
Analysis'') directs that the baseline should be ``the best assessment 
of the way the world would look absent the proposed action.'' BOEM and 
BSEE have broad authority under existing regulations to impose 
reasonable conditions on exploration plan approvals and drilling 
permits. Thus, the final RIA excludes from new compliance costs the 
activities or capital investments that existing regulations may 
require, as well as impacts resulting from the incorporation of 
industry standards with which the industry voluntarily complies.
    The two provisions that are codified in this rulemaking and 
considered in the regulatory baseline are Additional Requirements for 
Securing Wells (Sec.  250.720) and Real-time Monitoring Requirements 
(Sec.  250.452). To supplement the analysis, we include a discussion of 
the baseline assumptions within the text of the final RIA and 
acknowledge the compliance cost for these two baseline provisions in 
the RIA appendix.
Compliance Cost Estimates
    BOEM and BSEE considered all comments and revised the cost 
estimates for some provisions based on information provided in 
comments. Costs provided in comments were considered and greatly 
influenced the cost estimates used in the final RIA.
    As mentioned above, the biggest change in the compliance cost of 
the rule relates to the characterization of costs, as BOEM and BSEE 
concluded that industry's existing practices and BOEM's and BSEE's 
current regulations would be used as the baseline for our analysis. To 
supplement the analysis, we included a discussion of the baseline costs 
within the text of the final RIA, and in developing the new compliance 
costs and estimates of the baseline cost, BOEM and BSEE seriously 
considered, and in many cases used, cost estimates provided by 
commenters that could be validated or were deemed reasonable.
    Several commenters argue that the costs of the initial RIA were 
significantly underestimated and that the rule will result in a 
negative impact to America's economy and energy security by inhibiting 
oil and gas development on the Arctic OCS. One commenter asserted that 
the approximately $1 billion cost to industry estimated in the initial 
RIA over the 10 year assessment period fails to address the impacts of 
shortening the effective drilling season, driven primarily by the same-
season relief well requirement. The commenter also argued the RIA uses 
assumed spread rates for drilling and emergency response facilities 
that are far lower than demonstrated by industry experience. The 
commenter asserted that the Bureaus' estimated costs in the initial RIA 
are drastically low, sometimes by several orders of magnitude, and that 
the cost to industry is $10-20 billion higher over the 10-year period. 
BOEM and BSEE generally disagree.
    BOEM and BSEE considered these comments. The cost estimates 
provided comments influenced the compliance cost estimates for several 
provisions in the final RIA. In developing the new compliance costs and 
estimates of the baseline cost, BOEM and BSEE closely considered and in 
many cases used revised cost estimates provided in comments. The final 
RIA includes revised cost assumptions for each provision.
    Regarding the assertion that our regulation of offshore oil and gas 
production in the Arctic will inhibit a large amount of economic 
activity, including preventing the creation of many new jobs, we 
disagree. Industry interest in potential development in the Arctic OCS 
region of Alaska is largely driven by the price of oil and gas and the 
challenging and harsh conditions in the area, as evidenced by recent 
departures from the area by Shell and Statoil. As a result, the Arctic 
OSC region of Alaska has not previously relied on the type of offshore 
drilling regulated by this final rule for economic development or well-
being. The OCSLA states that the policy of the U.S. is to both make the 
OCS available for production and development as well as to ensure that 
operations are conducted safely. Lessees, particularly in the Arctic, 
obtain OCS leases and pursue exploration with a full understanding of 
this dynamic. This rulemaking reflects the Bureaus' reasonable and 
appropriate fulfillment of their multifaceted OCSLA mandates.
    In addition, the final regulations could bring potential benefits 
to the local economy and cultural traditions from reduced risk of oil 
spills. A catastrophic oil spill would have negative economic impacts 
far beyond the offshore oil and gas industry. A catastrophic oil spill 
could disrupt subsistence practices, such as whaling, on which Native 
Alaskans rely for food and for their cultural preservation.
    One commenter asserted that the initial RIA incorrectly estimates 
the daily per-rig operating cost at $2 million because it fails to take 
into account that rigs and vessels contracted for Arctic exploration 
are contracted on an annual basis. The commenter further states that, 
by considering the operating costs for a single day via day rates based 
on 365 days per year of utilization, the Bureaus have understated 
significantly the cost of a drilling day lost due to regulatory 
requirements or constraints. The commenter recommended that the cost 
should be captured in a weighted daily estimate of operating cost tied 
to the shortened Arctic operating season. The commenter noted that, 
based on an estimated 100 drilling days available in the Chukchi Sea, 
this results in an effective daily operating cost of $7.5 million per 
day per rig when the full cost of `ownership' is taken into account. 
Due to the significant fixed cost burden, the commenter asserted that 
the cost of a day spent not operating can be estimated at 80 percent of 
the operating rate, or $6 million per rig per day.
    BOEM and BSEE have addressed this comment in the final RIA by 
adjusting the daily rig operating costs to $3.97 million, which assumes 
the operating rig must be contracted for the entire year and supporting 
vessels for part of the year. To address lost drilling days, the 
compliance cost of the ``shoulder season'' \46\ is also estimated. It 
is assumed that the shoulder season requirement will shorten the 
drilling season by 34 days, out of the estimated 116-day drilling 
season. This 29 percent reduction in drilling days is used to estimate 
that 29 percent of the annual cost of the drilling rig is lost due to 
this provision. There are also savings realized during the 34 days from 
support vessels demobilizing 34 days earlier. BOEM and BSEE also note 
that operators may still undertake productive activities on wells 
during the shoulder season. However, to provide maximum estimate of 
potential cost of the shoulder season, these benefits are not 
considered in the estimated cost. The final RIA estimates the annual 
shoulder season costs as $84.42 million

[[Page 46544]]

in years 2 and 3 and $177.95 million per year in years 4 to 10.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \46\ The shoulder season is the period of time operators may not 
drill or work below the surface casing, and its length is dependent 
on an operator's ability to demonstrate the capability of the relief 
rig to arrive on site, drill a relief well, kill and abandon the 
original well and abandon the relief well prior to expected seasonal 
ice encroachment at the drill site.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter disagrees with the initial RIA's assumption that the 
operating season on the Arctic OCS is 138 days long and asserted the 
Bureaus have exaggerated the season length and incorrectly spread costs 
across a greater number of days, resulting in the overall cost impact 
being incorrectly reduced. The commenter asserted that current 
regulatory constraints make July 1 to October 31 the highest potential 
estimate for season length (totaling 123 days), while ice data 
collected over the last 10 years would indicate an average season 
length of approximately 100 days. The commenter questioned whether the 
Bureaus have either assumed operators will have access prior to July 1, 
which is prohibited by current USFWS regulations, or extended the 
season past October 31, which is not supported by historical ice data.
    BOEM and BSEE agree and have used assumptions that reflect a 
drilling season reduced to 82 days long. BOEM and BSEE estimate the 
ice-free season to be 116 days long (from July 7 through October 31) 
and subtract 34 days for the baseline shoulder season.
    Two commenters questioned the cost of familiarization with the 
requirements of this rulemaking. One commenter asserted that the time 
estimated in the initial RIA for industry staff to generate the 
information was understated and allocated incorrectly to managerial 
time, when the work would be done by mid and senior level engineers. 
Another commenter stated that their experience with implementing rule 
packages for operations necessitates an initial time commitment 
involving a number of people across a number of teams, resulting in a 
time commitment 50 times as large as that assumed in the initial RIA. 
The commenter added that there would be an ongoing need to onboard 
staff and contractors, resulting in 250 hours of labor per year for 
review in subsequent years.
    BOEM and BSEE agree in part. In the final RIA we revised the 
estimated staff times required by industry for familiarization with the 
regulation. It is assumed for each operator that a senior engineer will 
spend 250 hours to review the new regulation. It is also assumed that 
each operator will spend 120 hours per year assuring new personnel's 
familiarity with the rule to prepare for the next drilling season.
    Several commenters question the benefits analysis of the initial 
RIA, and many specifically cite to benefits being calculated based on 
the conditional assumption that a catastrophic oil spill will occur on 
the Arctic OCS in the next ten years. Commenters assert this assumption 
is at odds with the broadly acknowledged understanding, as stated in 
the NPRM, that the probability of such an event is extremely low. One 
of the commenters noted the initial RIA calculated the benefits of the 
regulatory action by assuming costs based on the clean-up of the 2010 
Macondo spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but that the estimated oil 
released at Macondo was twice the ``worst-case discharge'' projections 
for any Chukchi Sea oil spill. Three of the commenters question the 
initial RIA benefits analysis as being inconsistent with the February 
2015 Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193 Supplemental Environmental Impact 
Statement. They suggest that the final RIA should align to the less 
than one percent chance of a large oil spill during exploration of the 
Arctic OCS.
    BOEM and BSEE have determined the benefits of the final rule 
justify the costs when qualitative factors are considered. The 
potential impact and cost of an Arctic OCS oil spill is substantial. 
This rule's spill control mechanisms provide significant potential 
benefits through avoided spill costs. This justification relies on both 
qualitative and quantitative analysis. BOEM and BSEE acknowledge 
previous studies which have found the estimated probability of a 
catastrophic oil spill to be very low; the final RIA provides frequency 
estimates for large oil spills, but it is usually true of catastrophic 
risks that society deems it worthwhile to defend against them or be 
prepared to remedy them despite the low probability of the event. The 
American public greatly values the Arctic. It is viewed as a pristine, 
unspoiled environment. With this in mind, a catastrophic oil spill 
would have severe impacts and it is meaningful to examine the highly 
unlikely scenario of a catastrophic oil spill.
    Given both the low probability and high consequence nature of a 
catastrophic oil spill, and after review of public comments, BOEM and 
BSEE did not conduct a break-even analysis on the provisions in this 
final rule. Such an analysis could misrepresent both the underlying 
risk of a spill and the magnitude of costs which could result. The 
Initial RIA included a break-even analysis which was conditional on a 
catastrophic oil spill occurring. This analysis was removed, in part, 
as a response to comments which suggested that such an analysis was 
flawed and implied that a catastrophic oil spill would occur in the 
Arctic without the new regulations. Instead, the RIA provides estimates 
of the probability of a catastrophic oil spill and the range of 
potential costs of various size catastrophic oil spills. If the 
regulatory provisions were able to prevent a catastrophic oil spill, 
the benefits of the avoided spill costs have the potential to far 
exceed the rulemaking costs. In addition, the RIA discusses the spill 
control mechanisms in the rule which have the ability to limit spill 
costs and monetizes the potential avoided costs from each provision. 
Together, this information identifies the substantial benefits of the 
rule in avoiding the costs of a catastrophic oil spill while 
acknowledging the underlying low probability of a spill.
    BOEM and BSEE analyzed the specific provisions of this regulation 
designed to reduce the length of a catastrophic oil spill. The analysis 
focuses on the conditional state where a spill is assumed to occur 
within the 10-year scenario. BOEM and BSEE used historical data on oil 
spills to estimate the potential costs that would result from spills of 
various durations in the Arctic OCS region. BOEM and BSEE then used the 
final rule costs and the avoided damages of potential spills to 
estimate the possible rulemaking benefits. The initial RIA expressed 
the break-even analysis results in terms of the number of days of 
spilled oil that would need to be avoided for specific provisions of 
the regulation to be cost-beneficial. The final RIA includes an 
expanded discussion of potential avoided spill costs by spill control 
mechanism and the qualitative benefits of the regulation.
    One commenter requested the final RIA strengthen its ``Benefits'' 
analysis by estimating the safety benefits, and not just the 
environmental benefits, of the proposed rule. The commenter noted that, 
if major oil spills are prevented by the rulemaking, there clearly 
would be safety benefits as well.
    In response to comments received about the safety benefits, BOEM 
and BSEE expanded their discussion of this topic in the benefits 
section of the RIA, including a discussion on the importance of 
codifying existing industry standards and practices. These benefits 
result from the rule's requirements that reduce the probability of a 
catastrophic spill from a well control event and reduce the duration of 
a spill should one occur. Both of these reductions will increase safety 
in addition to their environmental benefits. The RIA considers the 
benefits of increased safety by considering the avoided costs from 
human fatalities and injuries that could occur during a catastrophic 
well control event and spill.

[[Page 46545]]

IOP Cost Estimates (Sec.  550.204)
    One commenter questioned the initial RIA calculation of staff time 
required to develop the IOP for submission, and asserted the time is 
underestimated by almost a factor of 40. The commenter estimates the 
costs of this provision to be $793,212 annually, instead of the 
$125,167 annual cost cited in the initial RIA.
    In response to this comment, BOEM revised the estimate of hours 
needed to prepare an IOP. The number of hours mid-level engineers spend 
to compile and include the required information in the IOP is revised 
to be 2,880 hours, resulting in a cost to industry of $281,721 per IOP, 
which is an increase from the initial RIA.
EP Cost Estimates (Sec.  550.220)
    One commenter stated the initial RIA underestimates the amount of 
time required to develop the additional information required for 
submission of the EP by more than a factor of 20. The commenter assumed 
that 1,050 hours of industry staff time and 144 hours of agency staff 
time will be required, resulting in total average annual costs of 
$215,815. The initial RIA assumed 45 hours of industry staff time and 
144 hours of agency staff time, resulting in average annual costs of 
$28,702. The commenter contends that development of the EP is a time 
intensive effort requiring input from a wide range of teams across the 
company to fully incorporate all of the information required by 
regulation.
    BOEM finds the commenter's estimate reasonable for compiling and 
submitting the required information from different expertise areas. The 
required EP information includes descriptions of different operator 
emergency and contingency plans, information on suitability for Arctic 
OCS conditions, ice and weather management, SCCE capabilities, 
deployment of a relief rig, resource sharing, and anticipated end-of-
season dates. The industry staff time assumptions in the final RIA 
match the estimate provided in this comment. Mid-level engineers are 
estimated to spend 1,050 hours compiling the required information for 
the EP. Multiplied by the median hourly compensation rate for mid-level 
engineers, the estimated industry cost is $102,711 per EP. The cost to 
BOEM remains the same at $10,898 per EP.
Incident Reporting Cost Estimates (Sec.  250.188)
    One commenter identifies two issues with the costs and burden 
associated with the incident reporting provisions of proposed Sec.  
250.188. First, the commenter noted the difference between the initial 
RIA accounting for one rig in 2015 and 2016 and the NPRM analysis that 
accounted for two rigs each of these years. From this, the commenter 
concludes that there would be a doubled cost for 2015 and 2016 if the 
analysis in the final RIA were updated to align with the assumptions of 
the NPRM analysis. Second, the commenter questioned the number of hours 
of staff work required to compile and document the required 
information. Based on the commenter's own previous experience during 
the 2012 season, the commenter estimated that instead of 5.5 hours of 
mid-level engineer time as a cost to industry, each incident would 
require 50 hours. The commenter supports the estimate by stating that a 
multidisciplinary team would work together to gather the necessary 
information, and the time estimates should account for the time 
required to review and prepare the submission by a senior level 
engineer, which is estimated to be 50 percent of the time required to 
gather the data, resulting in an additional 25 hours of cost. The 
commenter noted that for the cost to the agency, the relationship of 50 
percent of the time required to gather the data being required to 
review the submission was maintained, resulting in 25 hours of review 
time for the agency.
    In the final RIA, the assumptions regarding staff time are revised 
for this provision. It is assumed that incidents having new reporting 
requirements the final rule will occur two times a year for each rig. 
Industry mid-level engineers will spend 50 hours and industry senior 
engineers will spend 25 hours on reporting requirements for each 
incident. It is assumed that a BSEE senior engineer will spend 25 hours 
reviewing each submittal.
Pollution Prevention (Sec.  250.300)
    One commenter argued the initial RIA did not consider the 
operational and logistical burdens and costs associated with zero 
discharge operations for petroleum-based muds and cuttings. The 
commenter also argued the initial RIA did not account for costs 
associated with the authority of BSEE's Regional Supervisor to direct 
operators to capture water-based muds and cuttings, which will require 
operators to take into account that BSEE may drastically modify 
operations without warning, and the operator must plan accordingly. The 
commenter stated the initial RIA also did not account for any costs 
associated with the modification of rigs to handle a collection system, 
containers to collect and transport the muds and cuttings, vessels to 
transport the resulting volumes, or costs for the disposal of the mud 
and cuttings. The commenter asserted that an analysis of costs 
associated with Shell's 2012 Beaufort campaign, as well as updated 
plans based on what was learned from that campaign, demonstrate one-
time costs required to prepare rigs and support vessels for a 
collection system. The commenter also identified additional operating 
costs for the rig system and for the collection, storage, and transport 
systems, which it states should all be included in compliance cost 
estimate for this provision.
    The commenter disagrees with the initial RIA assumption that a 
skilled laborer on the rig crew and an industry senior engineer would 
spend, respectively, 60 and 8 hours annually to transport and dispose 
of mud and cuttings, resulting in an annual labor cost of $4,245 ((60 
hours x $56.86) + (8 hours x $104.22)) per rig. The commenter proposes 
an alternative cost estimate for this provision as follows: $10 million 
to modify an existing rig and equipment for zero discharge operations; 
$2 million (annual cost per rig) to operate additional equipment on the 
rig; $3 million in upfront logistics costs per rig supported; and $14.5 
million in annual logistics costs for the transport and disposal of 
waste. Taking into consideration the assumptions in the initial RIA 
Exhibit 3, the total cost of this provision would be $52 million in 
one-time costs to modify each rig and each rig's supporting logistic 
assets, and $561 million in total operating costs over 10 years, 
resulting in a total 10 year cost of $613 million.
    BOEM and BSEE considered the comments received on the pollution 
prevention requirements and updated portions of the RIA accordingly. 
Based on other comments received and additional analysis conducted by 
the Bureaus, the final RIA assumes that the requirement to capture all 
petroleum-based mud and cuttings under this provision is in the 
baseline. The capture of petroleum-based mud and cuttings is an 
established industry practice and is required separately by EPA as part 
of the applicable NPDES permits. As this requirement is imposed 
separately by EPA, BOEM and BSEE do not include a cost for the capture 
of petroleum-based mud and cuttings as a cost of the rule.
    BOEM and BSEE do consider the Regional Supervisor's discretion to 
require the capture of water-based muds and cuttings to result in costs 
attributable to this rule and have added an estimate of these costs to 
the final RIA. These costs are not considered as part of the baseline 
because the capture

[[Page 46546]]

was not a condition of either the 2012 or 2015 exploration plans. 
Rather, Shell voluntarily negotiated with whaling captains and agreed 
to capture water-based muds and cuttings as part of its 2012 Beaufort 
Sea exploration program. We note that the final rule does not 
explicitly require the capture of water-based muds and cuttings and 
instead gives the Regional Supervisor discretionary authority to 
require it based on various factors, including the protection of marine 
mammals, fish, and their habitat, and negative impacts to subsistence 
activities. Accordingly, these estimated costs in the final RIA may be 
overstated because of the possibility that capture will not be 
required. However, we have determined to include these compliance costs 
in the final RIA because, in addition to the fact that the capture of 
water-based muds and cuttings was not a condition of the 2012 or 2015 
exploration programs, the likely proximity of exploration drilling in 
the Beaufort Sea to bowhead whale migration corridors and/or 
subsistence activities makes it more likely that the Regional 
Supervisor would exercise authority requiring the capture of water-
based muds and cuttings in the Beaufort Sea. The annual cost is 
estimated to include a capital cost of $13.0 million to install capture 
equipment. The annual cost of operating the equipment disposing of 
cuttings is estimated to be $16.5 million. The average annual cost of 
this provision is estimated to be $18.1 million.
Mudline Cellars (Formerly Sec.  250.402)
    One commenter stated the cost of complying with the requirements 
proposed at Sec.  250.402(c) will result in a total cost of $4 billion 
over the ten years, compared to the Bureaus' estimated cost of $240 
million. The commenter based its estimated costs on the assumptions in 
Exhibit 3 of the initial RIA, which assume 48 wells will be drilled 
during the ten-year period. The commenter estimated the cost per season 
for a two-rig program to be approximately $1.5 billion, leading to 
daily operating rig costs (based on a 100 day drilling season) of $7.5 
million and lost rig day costs of $6 million. The commenter calculated 
that, based on the assumption of 1.5 days of additional lost time per 
well due to this provision, the cost is $9 million per well (1.5 days 
at a lost rig day rate of $6 million), which is three times larger than 
the initial RIA estimate of $2 million per well. The commenter argued 
that assuming a cost of $6 million per operating day results in an 
additional estimated cost of $9 million per well, and $432 million 
across the 48 wells assumed to be drilled in the ten-year period. The 
commenter further adds that inclusion of the costs for each rig to buy 
and maintain a dedicated mudline cellar bit adds $298 million to the 
cost across the 10-year program. Another commenter stated that the 
requirement for securing a well has long-required the use of well 
cellars and proper temporary abandonment of Arctic wells. The commenter 
asserted this is not a new requirement and should be included in the 
baseline costs.
    BOEM and BSEE agree that the requirements under the former Sec.  
250.402 (finalized in the Well Control Rule as Sec.  250.720), 
including mudline cellars, are a long-standing industry practice and 
are required by existing regulations (Sec.  250.738) for Arctic OCS 
MODU drilling operations in ice scour areas. Accordingly, we have 
included the costs of the mudline cellars in the final RIA's baseline 
cost estimate. BOEM and BSEE have adjusted the estimated compliance 
cost based on information received in comments and the number of 
drilling days required to drill or construct a mudline cellar. We 
assume that the mudline cellar will take 10 days to drill or construct, 
based on actual time required during the 2015 exploration drilling 
program. We further updated the average daily drilling cost. These 
calculations resulted in a mudline cellar drilling cost of 
approximately $37,000,000 per well.
    The mudline cellar requirement imposes a capital cost per drilling 
rig (for the mudline well cellar drill bit) and a maintenance cost (for 
upkeep of the drill bit). These costs were not fully considered in the 
initial RIA but are included in the final RIA.
Real-Time Monitoring Requirements (Sec.  250.452)
    One comment questioned the assumption of the initial RIA that there 
is an incremental cost of $6 million per year, per rig for RTM 
requirements. The comment suggests that, because these measures were 
employed by Shell in 2012, there is no incremental cost to that 
operator. BOEM and BSEE agree and consider RTM costs to be part of the 
regulatory baseline. RTM was required as part of the approvals for the 
2012 and 2015 Shell EPs, and the use of RTM has become a standard 
practice by industry on the Arctic OCS. Additionally, RTM provisions 
are codified in the final BSEE BOP/Well Control rule at Sec.  250.724. 
While RTM is considered a baseline cost, BOEM and BSEE acknowledge 
there may be instances when RTM could be required under Sec.  250.452 
but not under Sec.  250.724. Section 250.724 requires RTM when 
conducting well operations with a subsea BOP, with a surface BOP on a 
floating facility, or when operating in an HPHT environment. Arctic 
exploratory drilling may be conducted from grounded platforms such as a 
jack-up rig that do not utilize a subsea BOP. In these cases RTM would 
be required and could be considered a compliance cost assigned to Sec.  
250.452. However, as a general matter, the use of real-time monitoring 
has become an industry standard in the context of challenging 
conditions such as deepwater or HPHT wells (as reflected in the Well 
Control Rule) and Arctic OCS exploratory drilling (as reflected here 
and in the 2012 and 2015 plans). Accordingly, based on the requirements 
of the Well Control Rule and standard industry practices in challenging 
Arctic conditions, BOEM and BSEE have concluded that costs associated 
with maintaining real-time monitoring capabilities are properly 
considered baseline costs.
    One commenter suggests that the RTM compliance costs were 
underestimated. They suggest that the cost to operate a monitoring 
system is approximately $10,000 per day, compared to the $5,000 per day 
used in the initial RIA. They suggest that, in a 100-day season, the 
system would be operated for approximately 144 days, with 30 days prior 
to the season utilized to get systems up and running and then two weeks 
following the season to close down. They further suggest that the 
initial system would cost $400,000 per operator with an additional 
$200,000 every three years to replace or update monitoring system 
components.
    In the baseline cost analysis, BOEM and BSEE assume the RTM systems 
would be operated for 126 days per year, which consists of the 82 day 
drilling season (116 days in the season less the 34 day shoulder 
season), 30 days for set-up, and 14 days for take-down. We have kept 
the $5,000 average daily cost consistent with information received as 
part of the BSEE Well Control Rule. The initial system cost and 
refurbishing cost were revised based on this comment. A $400,000 
initial system cost and a $200,000 refurbishing cost, incurred every 
three years, are included in the baseline final RIA cost estimate.
APD Cost (Sec.  250.470)
    One commenter expressed concern about the incorporation of API RP 
2N Third Edition as part of an operators' APD submittal. The commenter 
mentions that the RP explicitly states its inapplicability to MODUs, 
and concludes that the Bureaus' attempt to estimate the cost of 
incorporating an

[[Page 46547]]

inapplicable standard as required under this provision results in 
undefinable costs, given the variety of issues raised by such a 
requirement. The commenter estimated the increased average annual costs 
to be $9,818, which assumes 20 hours of industry staff time and 10 
hours of BSEE staff time.
    BOEM and BSEE have revised the cost assumptions in response to this 
comment. The final RIA assumes an industry mid-level engineer will 
spend 20 hours on the documentation associated with the provision, 
which results in an annual cost of $1,956 per rig. It is assumed a 
senior BSEE engineer will spend 10 hours reviewing submittals 
associated with the requirement, for a cost of $979 per rig. With these 
assumptions, the average annual cost of this provision is estimated to 
be $10,273.
Source Control and Containment Cost (Sec.  250.471)
    Two commenters recommend that the initial RIA's cost estimates of 
$31 million per year for SCCE, including a capping stack, cap-and-flow 
system, and containment dome, should be included in the baseline 
because this equipment has been required for OCS operations since 2010, 
pursuant to NTL 2010-N10 and Shell's 2012 EP. One of the commenters 
requested that, if SCCE costs are considered new regulatory compliance 
costs, then the capital and operating costs for each piece of SCCE 
should be explained.
    BOEM and BSEE disagree that the costs are part of the baseline and 
have explained the cost assumptions in greater detail in the final RIA. 
The SCCE capital cost, in addition to the costs of deployment and 
testing of this equipment, is a compliance cost of the rule because the 
requirement to maintain SCCE is being formally codified in the 
regulations. The SCCE costs are summarized in the final RIA and total 
$681.9 million over 10 years (3 percent discounting).
    One commenter stated that the costs for the SCCE requirements are 
significantly underestimated and that they should be $315 million to 
$685 million higher, over the ten-year period, than the costs 
associated with the SCCE requirements as presented in the initial RIA. 
The commenter asserted that the initial RIA incorrectly assumed no cost 
associated with the existing SCCE system by only including the cost for 
the purchase of a second system in 2018. The existing system is the 
result of what the comment states are extra-regulatory conditional 
permit requirements, and as such the $270 million used in 2018 was also 
utilized in 2015 to recognize the cost already incurred by the 
industry. Furthermore, the commenter states that its experience 
indicates that BSEE has substantially underestimated the annual 
operating costs of the system, accounting for only $1.2 million in 
operating costs per year. The commenter argued that all costs evaluated 
in the initial RIA assumed a continued WCD of 25,000 barrels per day as 
used in the approved Shell Chukchi OSRP. The commenter stated that if 
prospects with larger estimated WCDs are evaluated, the costs for the 
development and operation of the SCCE systems will scale, at minimum, 
linearly from the costs that are currently included, and the commenter 
recommended this increased cost should be incorporated into the 
analysis. The commenter also asserted that the cost for an annual test 
or exercise of the system, which would involve a full deployment of the 
SCCE, is underrepresented in the initial RIA. The commenter suggests 
that, based on current costs and experience from a 2015 deployment 
test, an annual test would cost an estimated $5.9 million per year per 
system.
    BOEM and BSEE have revised the cost estimates for the SCCE testing 
requirements based on information received in comments and adopted the 
central SCCE capital scenario from the initial RIA. The central SCCE 
scenario assumes that one company purchases SCCE for its own use and 
the other two operators share SCCE. The calculation of the volume of 
oil under a WCD scenario varies from site to site. This information is 
required as part of the OSRP for each facility under Sec.  254.47. BOEM 
and BSEE do not include additional costs for revised SCCE in the event 
that larger WCD scenarios are developed for other prospects, as these 
costs would be too speculative to estimate at this time. The final RIA 
estimates the average annual deployment and testing cost to be 
$22,117,333.
Relief Rig Requirements (Sec.  250.472)
    Two commenters recommend that the $0.55 billion relief rig costs 
should be removed from the incremental analysis and be included in the 
baseline because the Bureaus have previously imposed the requirement 
that Arctic OCS exploration operators have a relief rig. One of the 
commenters noted that the costs of the standby relief rigs should not 
be included because operators can plan simultaneous exploration 
operations using two or more drilling rigs where no drilling rig would 
be idle on stand-by. The commenter further noted that two or more 
operators drilling in the Arctic at the same time could agree to share 
relief rig services through a mutual aid agreement, whereby no drilling 
rig would be idle on stand-by. The commenter concludes there is no 
incremental cost for a stand-by relief rig in either case, because the 
rigs are actively drilling wells and included in the baseline 
economics, and would only be called up in an emergency to provide 
relief rig services.
    BOEM and BSEE have continued to assign the compliance cost of the 
relief rig and shoulder season to the rule. However, the revised 
activity assumptions in the final RIA exclude the presence of an idle 
standby relief rig. Instead of an idle standby relief rig, it is 
assumed that the single operator in years 2 and 3 would operate two 
rigs and designate each rig as a relief rig for the other. Because the 
exploration activity scenario no longer includes an idle relief rig, no 
costs are associated with this provision. BOEM and BSEE maintain that 
the requirement that a relief well be drilled before seasonal ice 
encroachment is a compliance cost of the rule. The compliance cost for 
the shortening of the drilling season necessitated by these 
requirements is estimated to be $84.4 million per year in years 2 and 3 
and $177.9 million per year in years 4 to 10.
    One commenter suggests that BSEE's baseline economic modeling 
should be based on OCS lease operators being able to drill a single 
well per season per rig through 2017. The commenter further suggests 
the realization of a multiple-well drilling season for any single 
drilling unit is not likely, given the seasonal restrictions, 
requirement for a mud line cellar, and time required to drill a relief 
well.
    BOEM and BSEE disagree that a multiple-well drilling season is not 
likely. However, we do agree, considering Shell's 2015 announcement, 
that the number of wells per season should be revised. Accordingly, 
beginning in year 2 we have revised the assumptions for the number of 
wells drilled per season to have a maximum of two wells per rig. The 
initial RIA assumed four wells for one rig in 2016, and the final RIA 
maintains the assumptions of four wells for two rigs in years 2 and 3 
and six wells for 4 rigs from years 4 to 10. By assuming that two wells 
per season can be drilled, we are potentially assuming a higher level 
of activity and thus ensuring that we are not underestimating the costs 
of the regulation. We considered comments on the number of exploratory 
wells assumed in the analysis, and upon careful consideration have 
determined the scenario used in the final RIA

[[Page 46548]]

reflects a reasonable estimate for the number of wells over the 10 year 
period to avoid underestimating the regulatory costs.
    One commenter recommended any cost-benefit analysis of this rule 
package should account for the erosion to an operator's portfolio of 
lease holdings caused by lost drilling days resulting from the 
requirement for a same season relief well. The commenter asserted the 
regulations would make it difficult, and in many cases impossible, to 
complete one well in a single season and that the fewer days an 
operator has during the open-water season to explore its lease, the 
greater the number of its leases that will expire before they can be 
evaluated. The commenter points to the NPC Arctic Potential Study, 
where it is noted that the U.S. lease system is development based, and 
to retain a lease, the operator must have gained enough information to 
be able to move into the commercial development phase by the end of the 
10-year primary term for an OCS lease. The short drilling season, it 
was argued, could make this determination practically impossible to 
achieve within the 10-year term when the drilling of several wells may 
be required to enable appraisal of a field.
    BOEM and BSEE have reexamined, carefully considered and developed 
new estimates of the number of lost drilling days resulting from the 
requirements of the final rule, and have derived the effect of these 
lost drilling days in terms of their cost to operators. It is assumed 
that the relief rig requirement would shorten the drilling season by 34 
days, out of the estimated 116 day drilling season. This 29 percent 
reduction in drilling days is used to estimate that 29 percent of the 
annual costs of the drilling rig is lost due to this provision. There 
are also savings realized during the 34 days from support vessels 
demobilizing earlier and other beneficial activities that can be 
pursued during that time, however these benefits were not incorporated 
into the cost estimates. The final RIA estimates the annual shoulder 
season costs as $84.42 million per year in years 2 and 3 and $177.95 
million per year in years 4 to 10.
    With regard to the NPC Arctic Potential Study, as discussed in 
Section IV.B.1. General Comments, BOEM and BSEE subject matter experts 
participated in the development of this study and have utilized, where 
appropriate, knowledge gained from its development. BOEM and BSEE 
recognize the NPC Arctic Potential Study as a valuable comprehensive 
study that considers the research and technology opportunities that 
exist for the prudent development of U.S. Arctic oil and gas resources. 
There are, however, a number of statements in the NPC Arctic Potential 
Study BOEM and BSEE found to be without support. For example, it 
suggested that there were currently available technologies, other than 
a relief well, that would kill and permanently plug an out-of-control 
well. BSEE and BOEM are aware of no such technology. In addition, the 
NPC Arctic Potential Study is only one of the resources that our 
regulatory experts considered in achieving our goal of developing 
regulations to ensure the safe and responsible development of petroleum 
resources on the Arctic OCS.
    One commenter argued that the cost per year of a relief rig, and 
number of years for inclusion of the cost of the relief rig, is 
overestimated. The initial RIA utilized a methodology to calculate the 
cost of a relief rig that took the assumed day rate cost of a rig at $2 
million per day and multiplied that by the number of days in a season 
at 138 days to arrive at a total of $276 million for a season. The 
commenter suggests that this methodology overstates the cost that would 
be associated with a rig that was being held on stand-by as a true 
relief rig at a location such as Dutch Harbor. The commenter cites an 
analysis performed by ENVIRON which estimated a cost of approximately 
$212 million per season based on publicly available data sources and 
the requirement of a rig, tugs to transport the rig, and a support 
vessel on stand-by (ENVIRON International Corporation. Arctic 
Regulations Benefit Cost Analysis. 2014. p. 9).
    BOEM and BSEE considered comments on the relief rig requirements of 
the proposed rule. We have revised both the day rate cost for Arctic 
drilling rigs and revised the cost of the shoulder season as discussed 
above. The revised Arctic exploration scenario has assumed that all 
rigs are conducting exploratory drilling operations.
SEMS Auditing (Sec.  250.1920)
    Two commenters question the auditing costs. One commenter is 
concerned that the cost estimated by BSEE for auditing services was 
underestimated by 50 percent. Another commenter thinks that the 
estimate of the incremental cost of the SEMS requirements was 
reasonable considering the scope of the requirement.
    BSEE has recently updated its cost estimates for SEMS Audits and 
now estimates the average cost to audit a complex operation on the OCS 
at $250,000/audit cycle. BSEE believes that this incremental cost is 
more reasonable given the requirement that the audit provide an 
objective evaluation to test and contribute to continual improvements 
in the management system's ability to manage risk.

D. Arctic Exploratory Drilling Process Flowchart

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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR15JY16.100

E. Conclusion

    The final rule establishes, through both performance-based and 
prescriptive requirements, what will be required of operators seeking 
to conduct exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS. The 
requirements contained in the final rule reflect the unpredictable and 
challenging nature of exploratory drilling operations in the Arctic. 
The regulations require early and comprehensive planning of operations,

[[Page 46550]]

particularly with respect to safety systems and emergency response 
vessels and equipment. These regulations seek to ensure that operations 
are undertaken in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

V. Procedural Matters

A. Regulatory Planning and Review (E.O. 12866 and E.O. 13563)

    Changes to Federal regulations must undergo several types of 
economic analyses. First, E.O. 12866 and E.O. 13563 direct agencies to 
assess the costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, 
if regulation is necessary, to select a regulatory approach that 
maximizes net benefits (accounting for the potential economic, 
environmental, public health, and safety effects). E.O. 13563 
emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, 
reducing costs, harmonizing rules, and promoting flexibility. Under 
E.O. 12866, an agency must determine whether a regulatory action is 
significant and, thus, subject to the requirements of the E.O. and OMB 
review. Section 3(f) of E.O. 12866 defines a ``significant regulatory 
action'' as any rule that:
    1. Has an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, or 
adversely affects in a material way the economy, a sector of the 
economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public 
health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities 
(also referred to as ``economically significant'');
    2. Creates serious inconsistency or otherwise interferes with an 
action taken or planned by another agency;
    3. Materially alters the budgetary impacts of entitlement grants, 
user fees, loan programs, or the rights and obligations of recipients 
thereof; or
    4. Raises novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal 
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in 
E.O. 12866.

B. E.O. 12866

    E.O. 12866 provides that OMB's OIRA will review all significant 
rules. Pursuant to the procedures established to implement section 6 of 
E.O. 12866, OMB has determined that this final rule is significant 
because it may have an effect on the economy of $100 million. The legal 
and policy issues identified by OMB are the requirements for SCCE, 
relief rig availability, and the shoulder season to reflect current 
conditions for Arctic OCS exploration plan and permit approval. The 
following discussion summarizes the economic analysis. The complete 
final RIA can be found in the regulatory docket for this final rule at 
www.regulations.gov (BSEE-2013-0011).
    Before authorizing the exploration for Arctic OCS hydrocarbon 
resources, BOEM and BSEE must ensure that exploration can occur safely 
and with minimal environmental risk. This final rule provides a 
regulatory framework specifically designed for Arctic exploration and 
outlines the specific requirements for exploratory activities. Its 
purpose is to provide the requirements and standards to which all 
individual operations will be held.
    The available Arctic OCS oil spill control and response 
capabilities have been strengthened at considerable cost over the last 
few years. The incremental compliance costs for new provisions required 
in this rulemaking are on top of measures already taken by industry. 
Two of the requirements of this regulation are considered baseline, 
that is, not new costs, as they reflect current industry practice under 
current regulations. At the same time, for informational purposes, we 
have accounted for this cost to industry of existing baseline 
requirements for exploratory operations in the Arctic that are being 
included in this rulemaking. The final RIA includes estimates of both 
new regulatory compliance costs and costs associated with the baseline.
    While a catastrophic oil spill resulting from exploratory drilling 
on the Arctic OCS is highly unlikely due to the nature of the geology, 
the shallow water depth, and the relative simplicity of well 
construction for wells likely to be drilled in the Arctic OCS, because 
the potential adverse effects of a catastrophic oil spill would be 
severe, steps must be taken to reduce the risk of a spill risk and its 
duration should one occur. The American public greatly values the 
Arctic. It is viewed as a pristine, unspoiled environment. With this in 
mind, a catastrophic oil spill would have severe impacts (at least on a 
meaningful human time scale). BOEM and BSEE have determined that the 
benefits of this rule exceed the costs when qualitative factors are 
considered and reflect society's strong risk averse preference in the 
Arctic.
Economic Analysis
1.1 Compliance Costs
    The provisions of the final rule are estimated to result in 
compliance costs of $2.0 billion under 3-percent discounting and $1.7 
billion under 7-percent discounting over 10 years. The baseline 
provisions are estimated to cost $1.8 billion under 3-percent 
discounting and $1.5 billion under 7-percent discounting over 10 years.
    Table 1 shows the final rule's provisions and primary benefit. We 
have included the estimated costs for reference. As the table 
emphasizes, the key provisions of this rule are specifically intended 
to minimize the risks of catastrophic oil spills and minimize the 
damage of a spill, should one occur.

                               Table 1--Regulatory Provisions, Costs and Benefits
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Rule cost     Baseline cost
                                                (discounted at  (discounted at
                   Provision                      3% over 11      3% over 11             Primary benefit
                                                   years, $        years, $
                                                   millions)       millions)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(a) Additional Incident Reporting Requirements           $0.56  ..............  Improves information to Federal
                                                                                 agencies.
(b) Additional Pollution Prevention                     141.09  ..............  Minimizes natural resource
 Requirements.                                                                   impacts.
(c) Additional Requirements for Securing Wells  ..............      $1,811.912  Reduces risk of a spill.
 *.
(d) Real-time Monitoring Requirements **......  ..............          14.101  Reduces risk of a spill.
(e) Additional Information Requirements for               0.23  ..............  Improves information to Federal
 APDs.                                                                           agencies.
(f) Incorporation of API RP 2N................            0.08  ..............  Reduces risk of a spill.
(g) Additional SCCE Requirements..............          681.92  ..............  Improves control and containment
                                                                                 of a spill.
(h) Relief Rig Requirements [dagger]..........        1,206.55  ..............  Improves control of a spill.
(i) Additional Auditing Requirements..........            5.58  ..............  Improves information to Federal
                                                                                 agencies.
(j) Real-time Location Tracking Requirements..            0.96  ..............  Improves information to Federal
                                                                                 agencies.
(k) IOP Requirements..........................            7.67  ..............  Improves coordination among
                                                                                 Federal agencies.
(l) Planning Information Requirements to                  2.57  ..............  Improves information to Federal
 Accompany EPs.                                                                  agencies.

[[Page 46551]]

 
(m) Industry Familiarization with the New Rule            0.37  ..............  General.
                                               ----------------                ---------------------------------
    Total.....................................        2,047.60       1,826.012  ................................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* The drilling of mudline cellars has been a longstanding practice in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas extending
  back to the 1980's; thus this provision is assigned to the regulatory baseline.
** The cost for this provision is assigned to the regulatory baseline. The BSEE BOP/Well Control rule at Sec.
  250.724 requires real-time monitoring for all operations with a subsea BOP or surface BOP on a floating
  facility.
[dagger] Provision (h) includes the baseline compliance cost attributable to the amount of time that an operator
  will ``lose'' from the open water season as a result of the relief rig/shoulder season requirement. A 116 day
  Arctic drilling season is estimated to be shortened by 34 days (29%).

1.2 Benefits
    BOEM and BSEE have concluded that these exploratory drilling 
regulations will provide regulatory clarity and certainty, resulting in 
a more comprehensive Arctic OCS oil and gas regulatory framework. The 
provisions in this rule codify existing requirements in the Arctic 
designed to reduce the probability of a catastrophic spill, reduce the 
impacts of a spill should one occur, improve the coordination of 
operations among Federal agencies, and minimize natural resource and 
ecosystem impacts of offshore operations in the Arctic.
    Due to both the uncertainty and difficulty of measuring benefits, 
we do not offer an aggregate quantitative assessment of all of the 
final rule's provisions. Instead, we present a combination of 
quantitative and qualitative discussions based on the benefits of the 
different provisions of this rule. In general, the individual 
provisions of this rule serve four main beneficial purposes: (1) 
Improving information to and coordination among Federal agencies 
regarding Arctic operations, (2) minimizing natural resource impacts, 
(3) reducing the risk of oil spills, including a catastrophic oil 
spill, and (4) improving containment and reducing severity of a 
catastrophic oil spill. Each of these benefits is discussed in more 
detail in the final RIA. In addition to these four main benefits, in 
aggregate the rule provides regulatory certainty to industry and the 
assurance to stakeholders and partners that DOI is committed to safe 
Arctic operations.
1.2.1 Benefit: Improving Information to, and Coordination Among Federal 
Agencies
    The final rule includes new provisions that require additional 
information sharing and availability. Because the nature of this 
benefit is difficult to quantify, it is considered qualitatively. The 
costs of the applicable provisions total $17.6 million and comprise 0.9 
percent of the compliance costs assigned to the rule. They are designed 
to achieve better coordination among BSEE, BOEM, and other Federal 
agencies. For example, Sec.  550.204 requires operators to provide 
information which will facilitate interagency coordination between DOI 
and other relevant Federal agencies, as recommended in the DOI Report 
to the Secretary of the Interior, Review of Shell's 2012 Alaska 
Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration Program.\47\ The benefits of this 
information sharing allow different Federal agencies to manage 
potential conflicts and ensure compliance with environmental and 
regulatory standards. The necessity of coordination and information 
sharing between Federal agencies is documented in E.O. 13580, which 
created the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic 
Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska.\48\ This E.O. recognizes 
the importance of interagency coordination for ``safe, responsible, and 
efficient development of oil and natural gas resources in Alaska . . . 
while protecting human health and the environment as well as indigenous 
populations.'' This rule provides assurance to other Federal agencies 
that BOEM and BSEE are protecting the region and are fostering 
communication and collaboration with government partners.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \47\ http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/upload/Shell-report-3-8-13-Final.pdf.
    \48\ https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/07/12/executive-order-13580-interagency-working-group-coordination-domestic-en.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.2.2 Benefit: Minimizing Natural Resource and Subsistence Impacts
    The additional pollution prevention requirements in paragraphs 
(b)(1) and (2) of Sec.  250.300 constitute 6.9 percent of the rule's 
estimated compliance cost. The revised pollution prevention 
requirements that are responsible for these incremental compliance 
costs clarify the Regional Supervisor's discretionary authority to 
ensure that operators capture all water-based muds and associated 
cuttings from Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations following 
completion of the conductor casing to prevent discharge of these water 
based muds and associated cuttings into the marine environment. The 
Regional Supervisor would be more likely to exercise authority 
requiring the capture of water-based muds and cuttings in the Beaufort 
Sea, as that is the area where whales migrate through subsistence 
harvest areas. Given the difficulty of calculating how the discharge of 
muds and cuttings could affect marine mammals, their habitat, and 
subsistence activities, we have not quantified the benefits of these 
provisions. However, we recognize the importance of subsistence 
harvests in the region and conclude these provisions are necessary to 
preserve a food source and cultural tradition.
1.2.3 Benefit: Reducing the Risk of a Catastrophic Oil Spill
    Both the provision for RTM and the additional requirements for 
securing wells help reduce the risk of a catastrophic oil spill from 
Arctic OCS exploration activities. These baseline provisions are 
designed to reduce the risk of such an oil spill occurring.
    A catastrophic oil spill is characterized as a ``low-probability, 
high-consequence'' event because it is infrequent but has large 
consequences when it does occur. Previous frequency/probability studies 
of oil spills resulting from loss of well control have estimated 
catastrophic oil spill risk, but also have emphasized the extreme 
difficulty in estimating the probability that an event will actually 
occur, in part because the number of such large accidents offshore is 
small. Even more difficult is determining the reduction in the

[[Page 46552]]

probability of occurrence that a new regulation would actually achieve. 
Given the nature of the new requirement being imposed on industry as a 
result of this provision (i.e., additional documentation that the 
recommended practice was followed), we have not quantified the effect 
of this provision on the reduction in risk or the estimated avoided 
spill costs associated with the provision. The benefits of the final 
rule's baseline provisions are discussed in the final RIA.
1.2.4 Benefit: Reducing the Duration of Catastrophic Oil Spills
    Provisions of this final rule are designed to ensure that equipment 
and personnel are readily available to respond to a loss of well 
control event. As shown in Table 1 in the RIA, the most costly 
provisions are designed to reduce the duration of a loss of well 
control event should one occur. To compare the benefit of reducing the 
duration or severity of a catastrophic oil spill with the costs 
incurred, the final RIA conducts analyses on the specific provisions of 
the rule designed to reduce spill duration or severity. Section 250.471 
of the final rule requires additional SCCE testing and documentation, 
which can reduce the impact of a catastrophic oil spill should one 
occur. Section 250.472 requires Arctic OCS operators to have access to 
a separate relief rig that would be available if a loss of well control 
was to occur and drilling a relief well became necessary. The rule 
requires a drilling rig be located such that it could arrive on 
location, drill a relief well, kill and abandon the original well, and 
abandon the relief well prior to expected ice encroachment at the drill 
site, but no later than 45 days after a loss of well control. The SCCE 
and relief rig requirements make up 92 percent of the rule's compliance 
cost.
    The SCCE testing requirements can help reduce the duration of 
catastrophic oil spills in two ways. First, through regular tests of 
the SCCE, crew members gain practice and experience in deploying the 
equipment which could ultimately lead to faster and more efficient 
deployment should an oil spill occur. Second, through these regular 
tests crew members can identify faulty equipment. This allows problems 
to be corrected before the equipment is actually needed.
    Given the difficulties associated with quantifying the exact 
influence this provision could have on reducing the severity of an oil 
spill, we conducted an analysis of the SCCE testing requirements. The 
final RIA includes calculations for the smallest reduction in oil spill 
duration, due to the SCCE testing requirements, necessary for this 
provision of the rule to be cost-beneficial. Also included in the final 
RIA is a risk analysis that considers the historical frequency of 
catastrophic OCS oil spills.
1.2.5 Benefit: Regulatory Certainty to Industry
    The regulatory baseline includes recent Arctic OCS exploration best 
practices and regulatory requirements that are being clarified and 
codified in this rule. Therefore, a benefit of this final rule is to 
provide the regulatory certainty of what is required for operators to 
safely explore for hydrocarbons on the Arctic OCS.
    The oil and gas industry requires regulatory stability to undertake 
timely and efficient exploration. With this rule, the oil and gas 
industry can more effectively plan and conduct exploratory drilling on 
the Arctic OCS with lower risk and fewer delays than under the existing 
rules and clarifying NTLs. According to BOEM's 2016 Assessment of 
Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Oil and Gas Resources of the 
Nation's Outer Continental Shelf, there are approximately 23.6 billion 
barrels of technically recoverable oil and about 104.4 trillion cubic 
feet of technically recoverable natural gas in the Beaufort Sea and 
Chukchi Sea Planning Areas combined. The NPC Arctic Potential Study 
listed as one of its key findings that the ``economic viability of U.S. 
Arctic development is challenged by operating conditions and the need 
for updated regulations that reflect arctic conditions'' (p. 10). This 
rule provides those Arctic-specific regulatory requirements.
1.2.6 Benefit: Assurance to Stakeholders and Partners
    In addition to providing regulatory certainty to industry, another 
benefit of this rule is to provide assurance to stakeholders, partners, 
Tribes, citizens, and other countries that the U.S. will explore the 
Arctic safely and with appropriate environmental stewardship. This rule 
builds on one of the themes from the NPC Arctic Potential Study that 
steps must be taken to ``secure public confidence'' that activities can 
be conducted safely. This rule helps achieve the National Arctic 
Strategy goals of protecting the unique and sensitive Arctic ecosystems 
and the subsistence needs, culture, and traditions of the Alaska Native 
communities.
    The U.S. Arctic Policy recognizes the interconnectedness of Arctic 
nations and commits to coordinating with other Arctic nations to ensure 
operationally safe and environmentally sustainable development. The 
U.S. is a Party to the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution 
Preparedness and Response in the Arctic and must comply with the 
Agreement, including the provisions in Article 4: Systems for Oil 
Pollution Preparedness and Response. These regulations help provide 
assurances to the international community that our operators in the 
Arctic will follow the appropriate preparedness procedures and do 
everything possible to prevent an oil spill, or minimize the effects 
should one occur. Further, the NPC Arctic Potential Study cites the 
importance of the U.S. national Arctic strategy in promoting Arctic 
activities because of their interaction with national security, foreign 
policy, and energy policy. The goal of the Arctic strategy is to ``seek 
an Arctic region that is stable and free of conflict, where nations act 
responsibly in a spirit of trust and cooperation, and where economic 
and energy resources are developed in a sustainable manner that 
respects the fragile environment and the interests and cultures of 
indigenous peoples.'' \49\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \49\ NPC Arctic Potential Study, Executive Summary, p. 9 (March 
2015).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

C. E.O. 13563

    E.O. 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while calling for 
improvements in the Nation's regulatory system to promote 
predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most 
innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 
In addition, E.O. 13563 directs agencies to consider regulatory 
approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of 
choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, 
and consistent with regulatory objectives. It also emphasizes that 
regulations must be based on the best available science and that the 
rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open 
exchange of ideas. We developed this final rule in a manner consistent 
with these requirements. BOEM and BSEE worked closely with engineers 
and technical staff to ensure this rulemaking follows sound engineering 
principles through research, standards development, and interaction 
with industry.
    E.O. 13563 requires an analysis of employment impacts. BOEM and 
BSEE considered whether the regulation might adversely affect Alaska 
employment by reducing the potential for jobs associated with the 
offshore oil

[[Page 46553]]

and gas industry. The Arctic region of Alaska has not relied previously 
on Federal offshore oil production for economic development, but any 
eventual production would be a positive contribution to the State's and 
the Nation's economic development. Although BOEM and BSEE, when 
considering the cumulative impacts of Arctic specific provisions in 
this rule, acknowledge reduced employment might occur, the safety and 
environmental protections are necessary to protect our fragile Arctic 
natural resources.
    Conversely, the final rule brings potential benefits to the local 
economy and cultural traditions from reduced risk of spills. A 
catastrophic spill would have negative economic impacts far beyond the 
offshore oil and gas industry. A catastrophic spill could disrupt 
subsistence whaling on which Native Alaskans rely for food and for 
their cultural preservation. Thus, assessing the net cost or benefit of 
the rule to the local economy is not practical, given the number of 
factors involved and the level of uncertainty that surrounds each of 
them.
    E.O. 13563 encourages agencies to consider the cumulative cost of 
regulations. Consistent with E.O. 13563 and OMB guidance in the March 
20, 2012, memorandum from the Administrator for the OIRA, the final RIA 
has made an effort to ``take account of the cumulative effects of new 
and existing rules.'' Thus, the RIA appendix accounts for the 
significant regulatory baseline costs codified in this rulemaking.

D. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    For the reasons explained in this section, BOEM and BSEE have 
concluded this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities and, therefore, a final regulatory 
flexibility analysis is not required.
    BOEM and BSEE prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA) for the proposed rule to assess the impact of the proposed rule 
on small entities, as defined by the applicable Small Business 
Administration size standards. The IRFA was prepared using conservative 
assumptions and sought public comments on potential small entity 
impacts. No comments on the potential impact to small entities were 
received during the proposed rule comment period. Based on the profile 
of current Arctic lessees, no small companies hold leases on the Arctic 
OCS. Previously only one small company holding only one lease held 
acreage in the Arctic. This company relinquished its lease in March 
2016. Considering the past and current Arctic lease holding profiles 
and the challenges of operating in the Arctic, we certify that this 
final rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities.
    The final rule affects operators and Federal oil and gas lessees 
that could conduct exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS. The 
Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601-612, defines small entities as 
small businesses, small nonprofits, and small governmental 
jurisdictions. We have identified no small nonprofits or small 
governmental jurisdictions that the rule would impact. Businesses 
subject to this rule fall under North American Industry Classification 
System (NAICS) codes 211111 (Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas 
Extraction) and 213111 (Drilling Oil and Gas Wells). For these 
classifications, a small business is defined as one with fewer than 
1,250 employees (NAICS code 211111) and fewer than 1,000 employees 
(NAICS code 213111), respectively. A small entity is one that is 
``independently owned and operated and which is not dominant in its 
field of operation.''
    Consistent with the exploratory scenario for the final RIA 
analysis, BOEM and BSEE anticipate three businesses to conduct 
exploratory drilling on the Arctic OCS over the 10 years of analysis. 
Although any business holding a lease could conduct exploratory 
drilling on the Arctic OCS if it can meet the relevant BOEM and BSEE 
regulatory requirements, a viable Arctic exploratory drilling program 
requires large geologic prospects and sufficient acreage to identify 
multiple drilling locations to support the prospect of economically 
viable development. Even absent this rulemaking, a single season of 
Arctic OCS exploratory drilling is estimated to cost approximately $1.5 
billion and may only result in one or two exploratory wells being 
drilled.
    According to BOEM's May 2016 list of Arctic OCS leaseholders, six 
businesses currently hold lease interests on the Arctic OCS. This rule 
directly affects all six Arctic lessees. Based on the small entity 
criterion, none of the six businesses is considered a small entity. 
From inception, to execution, to completion, every phase of Arctic OCS 
operations comes with inherent challenges and operational risks. The 
inherent challenges, including prospect and operational risks, and the 
attendant costs, make it exceedingly unlikely that any small entity 
will choose to conduct exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic 
OCS over the next decade.
    Consistent with the existing and inherent costs and challenges 
associated with Arctic OCS exploratory drilling, the absence of 
interested and capitalized small entity lessees, and the 10-year 
scenario in which only three operators engage in Arctic OCS exploratory 
drilling, BOEM and BSEE certify that this rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

E. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA)

    This final rule will not impose an unfunded Federal mandate on 
State, local, or Tribal governments. This rule will require 
expenditures exceeding $100 million in a single year by offshore oil 
and gas exploration companies operating on the Arctic OCS. DOI has 
prepared written statements satisfying the applicable requirements of 
the UMRA, 2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq. Those requirements are addressed in the 
RIA and in the final rule itself.
    Among other things, the final rule and the final RIA:
    1. Identify the provisions of Federal law (OCSLA, CWA, and OPA) 
under which this rule is being finalized;
    2. Include a quantitative assessment of the anticipated costs to 
the private sector (i.e., expenditures on labor and equipment) of the 
final rule; and
    3. Include qualitative and quantitative assessments of the 
anticipated benefits of the final rule.
    Since all of the anticipated expenditures by the private sector 
analyzed in the RIA would be borne by the OCS oil and gas exploration 
industry in the Arctic region, the RIA analyses satisfy the UMRA 
requirement to estimate any disproportionate budgetary effects of the 
final rule on a particular segment of the private sector (i.e., the 
offshore oil and gas industry).
    As discussed in the Regulatory Planning and Review section of this 
final rule, and explained in the RIA, BOEM and BSEE considered two 
major regulatory alternatives for dealing with the safety and 
environmental concerns raised by exploration activities on the Arctic 
OCS. BOEM and BSEE have decided to move forward with this final rule, 
in lieu of the other alternative of taking no regulatory action, 
because the other alternative would not as efficiently or effectively 
address the safety, environmental or sociocultural concerns raised by 
various stakeholders and partners on the Arctic OCS or achieve the 
objectives of this final rule.
    BOEM and BSEE have determined that the final rule would not impose 
any unfunded mandates or any other requirements on State, local or 
Tribal

[[Page 46554]]

governments; thus, the final rule would not have disproportionate 
budgetary effects on such governments. Assuming, however, that the 
final rule might result in budgetary effects on the Arctic region, BOEM 
and BSEE have determined that it is not practical to accurately 
estimate such effects. Since the final rule would not impose any 
requirements on any entities, other than upstream oil and gas companies 
and their contractors engaged in Arctic OCS exploration activities, any 
budgetary effects in that area would be at least indirect, secondary 
results of actions or decisions taken by regulated (or unregulated) 
entities, based on a variety of circumstances (such as the price of 
oil, each entity's overall financial health, and the prospects of 
success of any exploratory drilling). Because each of those factors is 
variable and unpredictable, it is not practical to estimate how those 
factors might affect an entity's future decisions, or what indirect 
impacts, if any, such decisions could have on future regional budgets.
    Similarly, BOEM and BSEE have determined that it is not reasonably 
feasible to accurately estimate the potential effects, if any, of the 
final rule on the National economy (e.g., productivity, economic 
growth, employment, international competitiveness). The final rule 
would only affect exploratory drilling activities on the Arctic OCS, 
and any potential impact on the national economy would depend on the 
economics of any hydrocarbon discoveries and individual business 
decisions made by regulated entities (e.g., whether or not to hire new 
employees). Moreover, any such decisions would likely be either local 
or regional in effect and unlikely to have any significant national 
economic impacts.

F. Takings Implication Assessment

    Under the criteria in E.O. 12630, this final rule will not have 
significant takings implications. The final rule is not a governmental 
action capable of interference with constitutionally protected property 
rights. A Takings Implication Assessment is not required.

G. Federalism (E.O. 13132)

    Under the criteria in E.O. 13132, this final rule will not have 
federalism implications. This final rule will not substantially and 
directly affect the relationship between the Federal and State 
governments. To the extent that State and local governments have a role 
in OCS activities, this final rule will not affect that role. A 
Federalism Assessment is not required.

H. Civil Justice Reform (E.O. 12988)

    This final rule complies with the requirements of E.O. 12988. 
Specifically, this rule:
    1. Meets the criteria of section 3(a) requiring that all 
regulations be reviewed to eliminate errors and ambiguity and be 
written to minimize litigation; and
    2. Meets the criteria of section 3(b)(2) requiring that all 
regulations be written in clear language and contain clear legal 
standards.

I. Consultation With Indian Tribes (E.O. 13175)

    Under the criteria in E.O. 13175, Consultation and Coordination 
with Indian Tribal Governments (dated November 6, 2000), DOI's Policy 
on Consultation with Indian Tribes (Secretarial Order 3317, Amendment 
2, dated December 31, 2013), the Alaska Native Corporation Consultation 
Policy (dated August 12, 2012), and Departmental Manual Part 512 
Chapters 4 and 5 (dated December 2, 2014), we evaluated and determined 
that the subject matter of this rulemaking will have implications for 
federally recognized Tribes and ANCSA Corporations. As described 
earlier, future Arctic OCS exploratory drilling activities conducted 
pursuant to this final rule could affect Alaska Natives, particularly 
their ability to engage in subsistence and cultural activities.
    BOEM and BSEE are committed to regular and meaningful consultation 
and collaboration with Tribes on policy decisions that have Tribal 
implications including, as an initial step, through complete and 
consistent implementation of E.O. 13175, together with related orders, 
directives, and guidance. Therefore, BOEM and BSEE, in coordination 
with the Office of the Secretary of the Interior's Senior Alaska 
Representative, engaged in listening sessions, Government-to-Government 
Tribal consultations, and Government-to-ANCSA Corporations 
consultations to discuss the subject matter of the final rule and 
solicit input in the development of the final rule at several stages of 
the rule development process, from the earliest phases through the 
final rule development.
    In the early stages of developing the NPRM, Government-to-
Government consultation was held in Barrow between BOEM, BSEE, and the 
Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS), to both provide 
background to, and obtain information from, ICAS tribal leaders and 
council members. The following day, June 7, 2013, BOEM and BSEE met 
with leaders and council members of the Native Village of Barrow 
Inupiat Traditional Government in a separate Government-to-Government 
consultation. All Tribal input provided during the meetings was 
subsequently provided to DOI in writing and has been included in the 
decision record for this final rule.
    BOEM and BSEE also held public listening sessions in South-central 
Alaska (Anchorage) and on the North Slope (Barrow) on June 6 and 7, 
2013. The BOEM Alaska Region notified federally recognized Alaska 
Native Tribes and ANCSA Corporations of the June 6 and 7, 2013, public 
listening sessions and Government-to-Government consultations through 
phone calls, emails, newspaper announcements, and BOEM's Web site.
    A series of follow-on meetings and listening sessions were held 
June 17-20, 2013, in Anchorage resulting, in part, in Government-to-
Government consultation between BOEM, BSEE, and the Native Village of 
Nuiqsut and Government-to-ANCSA Corporation consultations between BOEM, 
BSEE, and the NANA Regional Corporation and the Cully Corporation 
(Point Lay ANCSA Corporation).
    DOI continued consultation with affected federally recognized 
tribes and ANCSA Corporations following publication of the NPRM. On 
March 12, 2015, BOEM and BSEE held a public meeting in Barrow and met 
individually with leaders and council members of the Native Village of 
Barrow Inupiat Traditional Government, the AEWC and ICAS. The Bureaus 
also met with federally recognized Tribal leaders for six Government-
to-Government consultations on the proposed regulations between April 
20 and 24, 2015. The consultations were held in the following Alaskan 
locations: Kotzebue, Point Hope, Barrow, and Wainwright. During that 
week, consultations were held with the Native Village of Kotzebue, 
Native Village of Point Hope, ICAS, Native Village of Barrow, and 
Village of Wainwright. We also met with the president of the AEWC. On 
July 9, 2015, an additional Government-to-Government consultation was 
conducted with the Native Village of Nuiqsut by telephone conference.
    Alaska Native Tribes' and ANCSA Corporations' comments on the 
proposed regulations, both written and oral, and the Bureaus' responses 
are summarized in this preamble (see Section IV Section-By-Section 
Discussion of Changes and Comments). ANCSA corporations primarily 
supported more performance-based regulations and recommended the

[[Page 46555]]

proposed rule be withdrawn. Conversely, Alaska Native Tribes primarily 
supported the proposed regulations and recommended strengthening the 
provisions. Both written and oral comments received during Government-
to-Government and Government-to-ANCSA Corporation consultations 
emphasized the importance of safe drilling operations. Discussions were 
primarily focused on impacts to, and protection of, subsistence hunting 
and fishing areas and species, including consideration of mammal and 
fish migratory patterns, hunting and fishing seasons, and impacts of 
pollutants and equipment movements. Concerns also included the relative 
lack of infrastructure, such as roads, housing, and equipment in 
coastal communities near proposed Arctic OCS oil and gas exploration 
areas, and inclusion of local Alaska Natives in monitoring and other 
activities. Commenters also requested that we incorporate traditional 
knowledge of the Arctic OCS into our decision-making for regulations. 
As discussed in Section IV, BOEM and BSEE have considered Alaska Native 
Tribes' and ANCSA Corporations' comments and incorporated them in the 
final rule as appropriate. For example, Alaska Native Tribes expressed 
concern over drilling mud and cuttings from exploratory activities 
adversely affecting marine species and impacting subsistence hunting. 
As a result, BSEE is requiring the capture of all petroleum-based mud 
and associated cuttings from Arctic OCS exploratory drilling 
operations. Capturing of water based mud and cuttings could also be 
required based on proximity to subsistence hunting, fishing locations, 
and potential effects on marine mammals and birds.
    Only one commenter, the Cully Corporation, submitted a written 
comment asserting the Bureaus did not comply with the requirement to 
consult on this rulemaking.
    Both BOEM and BSEE have sought and maintained an active 
relationship with the Cully Corporation. With respect to Cully 
Corporation's statement that neither Bureau consulted with them, it is 
important to note that both Bureaus did make an effort to reach out to 
Cully Corporation regarding this particular matter. We met with the 
Cully Corporation several times prior to the publication of the NPRM, 
including a Government-to-ANCSA Corporation consultation in June 2013. 
Another Government-to-ANCSA Corporation consultation was scheduled with 
Cully Corporation on April 21, 2015. We welcome the opportunity to 
discuss the Cully Corporation's concerns regarding implementation of 
this final rule, and thank them for the thoughtful and comprehensive 
written comments submitted on the proposed regulations.

J. E.O. 12898--Environmental Justice

    E.O. 12898 requires Federal agencies to make achieving 
environmental justice part of their mission by identifying and 
addressing disproportionately high and adverse human health or 
environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on 
minority and low-income populations. DOI has determined that this final 
rule does not have a disproportionately high or adverse human health or 
environmental effect on native, minority, or low-income communities 
because its provisions are designed to increase environmental 
protection and minimize any impact of exploration drilling on 
subsistence activities and Alaska Native community resources and 
infrastructure.

K. Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)

    This rule contains information collection (IC) requirements for 
both BOEM and BSEE regulations. Therefore, an IC request for each 
Bureau was submitted to OMB for review and approval under the Paperwork 
Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et. seq.); see each individual 
bureau's section for the OMB Control number, expiration date, and 
relevant information. The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) provides that 
an agency may not conduct or sponsor, and you are not required to 
respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently 
valid OMB control number. The public may submit comments at any time on 
the IC burden in this rule to either DOI/BOEM: ATTN: Office of Policy, 
Regulation and Analysis; OPRAVAM-BOEM-DIR or DOI/BSEE; ATTN: 
Regulations and Standards Branch; VAE-ORP; 45600 Woodland Road, 
Sterling, VA 20166.
    As part of our continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent 
burdens, BOEM and BSEE invited the public to comment on any aspect of 
the reporting and recordkeeping burdens. We received 1,311 comments on 
this rulemaking. Three comments pertained to the information collection 
for BOEM and BSEE.
    Commenters generally criticized the IOP provision as being 
duplicative or redundant of existing requirements. BOEM disagrees. The 
IOP rules are neither redundant nor duplicative of existing 
requirements. The IOP is meant to be an overview of all phases of the 
operator's proposed operations in order to allow the Federal agencies 
an earlier review in the planning process than currently exists. 
Moreover, the operator's IOP will contain planning information with 
less specificity than that furnished with the EP; as well as, the IOP 
will not require approval where the EP does require approval.
    One of the commenters estimates that it will require 3,500 hours of 
industry staff time. We agree with the commenter that 90 hours for an 
IOP is low. However, we disagree with the commenter's recommendation to 
revise to 3,500 hours. BOEM anticipates that much of the conceptual 
planning information would already have been created by an operator 
planning to conduct exploration in the Arctic, and an IOP can be 
furnished through the operator's existing internal planning processes 
necessary for the preparation of Arctic operations. BOEM uses a 
conservative estimate derived from comments submitted by industry and 
direct experience reviewing a company's previously submitted IOP. 
During the IOP review period, BOEM can provide input to the operator, 
as well as request information from the operator regarding potential 
issues presented by the proposed activities concerning future plan 
approvals and permitting requirements. The estimated time it would take 
for the operator to provide any requested information to BOEM during 
the IOP review period is included in its burden hours estimate.
    Therefore, based on comments received, changes to BOEM's hour 
burdens are as follows:
    Sec.  550.204 submit all Arctic specific information required with 
IOP (+2,700).
    Sec.  550.220 submit all Arctic specific information required with 
EP (+960).
    Another comment received discussed duplicative information being 
submitted with the EP and the APD. BSEE and BOEM disagree with the 
duplication of information because the EP is intended to provide the 
operator the opportunity to present its overall plan for operations, 
and the APD is the technical document that provides the operator the 
opportunity to present details regarding how the plan will be 
implemented.
    The commenter also discussed the burden hours being low, for 
example, the submission of detailed descriptions of environmental, 
meteorologic, and oceanic conditions expected at well site(s); etc. 
BSEE agrees and has increased two of the hour burdens associated with 
certain requirements. The changes are as follows:
    Sec.  250.470(a); 417; 418--NEW--Submit detailed descriptions of 
environmental, meteorological, and oceanic conditions (+10 burden 
hours).
    Sec.  250.470(d); 418--NEW--Submit detailed description concerning 
weather

[[Page 46556]]

and ice forecasting for all phases; etc., (+6 hours).
    One commenter suggested the regulations should implement 
performance based requirements for well containment, which recognizes 
acceptable alternatives to mud line cellars. BSEE agrees with the 
importance of allowing for the use of technology that is best suited to 
an operator's plan and has changed the burden as follows:
    Sec.  250.720(c)(2)--NEW--Request approval to use an equivalent 
means rather than a well mudline cellar in areas of ice scour (+28 
hours).
    Another change that occurred to the BSEE information collection 
between the proposed and final rulemaking is the IC renewal for 30 CFR 
part 250, subpart S was initiated. When requests went out to industry 
for updated burdens, it was determined that the cost to conduct an 
audit has increased from $129,000 to $217,000. Based on a comment 
pertaining to the Regulatory Impact Analyses, it was decided that a 
SEMS audit in the Arctic will cost $250,000 (+$121,000).
BSEE Information Collection--30 CFR Parts 250 and 254
    The title of the collection of information for this rule is 30 CFR 
parts 250 and 254, Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic 
Outer Continental Shelf. The OMB approved the collection under Control 
Number 1014-0027, expiration 06/30/2019, 779 hours, $250,000 non-hour 
cost burdens. The regulations establish requirements for safe, 
responsible, and environmentally protective Arctic OCS oil and gas 
exploration, and the information is used in our efforts to protect life 
and the environment, conserve natural resources, and prevent waste.
    Potential respondents comprise Federal OCS oil, gas, and sulfur 
operators and lessees on the Arctic OCS. The frequency of response 
varies depending upon the requirement. Responses to this collection of 
information are mandatory; they are submitted on occasion, annually, or 
as a result of situations encountered, depending upon the requirement. 
The IC does not include questions of a sensitive nature. BSEE will 
protect proprietary information according to the Freedom of Information 
Act (5 U.S.C. 552) and DOI's implementing regulations (43 CFR part 2), 
30 CFR part 252, and 30 CFR 250.197, which address disclosure of data 
and information to be made available to the public.
    As stated previously, this rulemaking also pertains to several 
regulations. Once this rule becomes effective, the paperwork and non-
hour cost burdens will be removed from this collection of information 
and consolidated with the IC burdens under OMB Control Numbers 30 CFR 
part 250, subpart A, 1014-0022, expiration 8/3/2017 (84,391 hours, 
$1,371,458 non-hour cost burdens); subpart D, 1014-0018, expiration 10/
31/2017 (102,512 hours); subpart S, 1014-0017, expiration 11/30/2018 
(2,238,164 hours, $5,220,000 non-hour cost burdens); and 30 CFR part 
254, 1014-0007, expiration 11/30/2018 (74,461 hours) respectively; 
current collections can be viewed at www.reginfo.gov/public/.

                                                Burden Breakdown
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Reporting and
 Citation 30 CFR parts 250 and 254      recordkeeping         Hour burden     Average  number of   Annual burden
                                        requirements                           annual  responses       hours
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           30 CFR Part 250, Subpart A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
141...............................  Request approval to    Burden covered under 30 CFR part 250,               0
                                     use new or                    subpart A, 1014-0022.
                                     alternative
                                     procedures, along
                                     with supporting
                                     documentation if
                                     applicable,
                                     including BAST not
                                     specifically
                                     covered elsewhere
                                     in regulatory
                                     requirements.
                                                         ----------------------------------------
188(c); 190.......................  NEW--Provide BSEE     Oral 1.5..........  2 notifications...               3
                                     immediate oral
                                     report of sea ice
                                     movement/
                                     conditions; start
                                     and termination of
                                     ice management
                                     activities; kicks
                                     or unexpected
                                     operational issues.
188(c); 190.......................  NEW--Submit a         Written 4.........  2 reports.........               8
                                     written report
                                     within 24 hours
                                     after completing
                                     ice management
                                     activities.
                                                         -------------------------------------------------------
    Subtotal......................  ....................  ..................  4 responses.......              11
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           30 CFR Part 250, Subpart C
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
300(b)(1)(2)......................  Obtain approval to    Burden covered under APDs or APMs 1014-              0
                                     add petroleum-based             0025 or 1014-0026.
                                     substance to
                                     drilling mud system
                                     or approval for
                                     method of disposal
                                     of drill cuttings,
                                     sand, & other well
                                     solids, including
                                     those containing
                                     NORM.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           30 CFR Part 250, Subpart D
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
418...............................   Additional information that is to be submitted with an APD                0
                                       is covered under the specific requirement listed in this
                                                  burden table under 30 CFR 250.470
                                   --------------------------------------------------------------
452(a), (b).......................  NEW--Immediately      12................  1 transmittal.....              12
                                     transmit real-time
                                     data gathering and
                                     monitoring to
                                     record, store, and
                                     transmit data
                                     relating to the BOP
                                     control system,
                                     fluid handling,
                                     downhole
                                     conditions; prior
                                     to well operations,
                                     notify BSEE of
                                     monitoring location
                                     and make data
                                     available to BSEE
                                     upon request.
452(b)............................  NEW--Store and        1.................  2 wells x 138                  276
                                     monitor all                               drilling days =
                                     information                               276.
                                     relating to Sec.
                                     250.452(a); make
                                     data available to
                                     BSEE upon request.
                                                         ----------------------------------------

[[Page 46557]]

 
452(b)............................  Store and retain all   Burden covered under 30 CFR part 250,               0
                                     monitoring records            subpart D, 1014-0018.
                                     per requirements of
                                     Sec.  Sec.
                                     250.466 and 467.
                                                         ----------------------------------------
470(a); 713; 418..................  NEW--Submit detailed  20................  1 submittal.......              20
                                     descriptions of
                                     environmental,
                                     meteorologic, and
                                     oceanic conditions
                                     expected at well
                                     site(s); how
                                     drilling unit,
                                     equipment, and
                                     materials will be
                                     prepared for
                                     service; how the
                                     drilling unit will
                                     be in compliance
                                     with Sec.   250.417.
470(b); 418.......................  NEW--Submit detailed  4.................  2 each well-                    16
                                     description of                            underway to
                                     transitioning rig                         drilling;
                                     from being underway                       drilling to
                                     to drilling and                           underway = 4.
                                     vice versa.
470(b); 418.......................  NEW--Submit detailed  2.................  2 submittals......               4
                                     description of any
                                     anticipated repair
                                     and maintenance
                                     plans for the
                                     drilling unit and
                                     equipment.
470(c); 418.......................  NEW--Submit well      4.................  2 submittals......               8
                                     specific drilling
                                     objectives,
                                     timelines, and
                                     updated contingency
                                     plans etc., for
                                     temporary
                                     abandonment.
470(d); 418.......................  NEW--Submit detailed  12................  1 submittal.......              12
                                     description
                                     concerning weather
                                     and ice forecasting
                                     for all phases;
                                     including how to
                                     ensure continuous
                                     awareness of
                                     weather/ice hazards
                                     at/between each
                                     well site; plans
                                     for managing ice
                                     hazards and
                                     responding to
                                     weather events;
                                     verification of
                                     capabilities.
470(e); 418; 472..................  NEW--Submit a         140...............  1 description.....             140
                                     detailed
                                     description of
                                     compliance with
                                     relief rig plans.
470(f); 471(c); 418...............  NEW--SCCE             60................  2 submittals......             120
                                     capabilities;
                                     submit equipment
                                     statement showing
                                     capable of
                                     controlling WCD;
                                     detailed
                                     description of your
                                     or your
                                     contractor's SCCE
                                     capabilities
                                     including operating
                                     assumptions and
                                     limitations;
                                     inventory of local
                                     and regional
                                     supplies and
                                     services, along
                                     with supplier
                                     relevant
                                     information; proof
                                     of contract or
                                     agreements for
                                     providing SCCE or
                                     supplies, services;
                                     detailed
                                     description of
                                     procedures for
                                     inspecting,
                                     testing, and
                                     maintaining SCCE;
                                     and detailed
                                     description of your
                                     plan ensuring all
                                     members of the team
                                     operating SCCE have
                                     received training
                                     to deploy and
                                     operate, include
                                     dates of prior and
                                     planned training.
470(g); 418.......................  NEW--Submit a         20................  1 submittal.......              20
                                     detailed
                                     description of
                                     utilizing best
                                     practices of API RP
                                     2N during
                                     operations..
471(c); 470(f); 465(a)............  NEW--Submit with      10................  2 submittals......              20
                                     your APM, a
                                     reevaluation of
                                     your SCCE
                                     capabilities if
                                     well design
                                     changes; include
                                     any new WCD rate
                                     and demonstrate
                                     that your SCCE
                                     capabilities will
                                     comply with Sec.
                                     250.470(f).
471(e)............................  NEW--Maintain all     20................  2 records.........              40
                                     SCCE testing,
                                     inspection, and
                                     maintenance records
                                     for at least 10
                                     years; make
                                     available to BSEE
                                     upon request.
471(f)............................  NEW--Maintain all     20................  2 records.........              40
                                     records pertaining
                                     to use of SCCE
                                     during testing,
                                     training, and
                                     deployment
                                     activities for at
                                     least 3 years; make
                                     available to BSEE
                                     upon request.
                                                         ----------------------------------------
472(c)............................  Request approval for   Burden covered under 30 CFR part 250,               0
                                     alternative                    subpart A, 1014-0022
                                     compliance for
                                     relief rig
                                     requirements.
                                                         ----------------------------------------
720(c)(2).........................  NEW--Request                            14                         2 request
                                     approval to use an
                                     equivalent means
                                     other than a well
                                     mudline cellar in
                                     areas of ice scour.
                                                         -------------------------------------------------------
    Subtotal......................  ....................  ..................  299 responses.....             756
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           30 CFR Part 250, Subpart S
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1920(b), (c), (f).................  ASP audit for High        1 operator x $250,000 audit for high activity =
                                     Activity Operator.                          $250,000.
                                     NOTE: An audit once
                                     every 3 years in
                                     POCSR and GOMR; an
                                     audit in the Arctic
                                     in every year in
                                     which drilling is
                                     conducted (and the
                                     audit would cost
                                     more in the Arctic
                                     than in POCSR or
                                     GOMR).
                                                         -------------------------------------------------------
1920(c)...........................  Submit to BSEE after   Burden covered under 30 CFR part 250,               0
                                     completed audit, an           subpart S, 1014-0017.
                                     audit report of
                                     findings and
                                     conclusions,
                                     including
                                     deficiencies and
                                     required supporting
                                     information/
                                     documentation.
1920(d)...........................  Submit/resubmit a
                                     copy of your CAP
                                     that will address
                                     deficiencies
                                     identified in audit.
                                                         ----------------------------------------

[[Page 46558]]

 
    Subtotal......................  ....................  ..................  1 response........               0
                                                                             -----------------------------------
                                                                                $250,000 Non Hour Cost Burdens
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           30 CFR Part 254, Subpart E
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
55; 70; 80; 90....................  Submit spill           Burden covered under 30 CFR part 254,               0
                                     response plan for                   1014-0007.
                                     OCS facilities with
                                     all information
                                     required in
                                     regulations and
                                     related documents.
                                                         ----------------------------------------
80(c).............................  NEW--Submit a         6.................  2 descriptions....              12
                                     description of
                                     system used to
                                     maintain real-time
                                     location tracking
                                     for all response
                                     resources.
                                                         ----------------------------------------
90(a).............................  Include in your        Burden covered under 30 CFR part 254,               0
                                     training and                        1014-0007.
                                     exercise activities
                                     the requirements of
                                     this section.
90(b).............................  Notify BSEE 60 days
                                     prior to handling,
                                     storing, or
                                     transporting oil.
                                                         -------------------------------------------------------
    Subtotal......................  ....................  ..................  2 responses.......              12
                                                         -------------------------------------------------------
        Total Hour Burden.........  ....................  ..................  306 responses.....             779
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                         $250,000 Non-Hour Cost Burdens
                                                                             -----------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

BOEM Information Collection--30 CFR Part 550
    This final rulemaking adds new requirements for submitting EPs and 
other information before conducting oil and gas exploration drilling 
activities on the Arctic OCS. The title of the collection for the 
rulemaking is 30 CFR part 550, subpart B, Arctic OCS Activities. The 
OMB approved the collection under Control Number 1010-0189, expiration 
06/30/2019, 3,930 hours, and no non-hour cost burdens.
    Respondents for this rulemaking are Federal oil, gas, or sulfur 
lessees and/or operators on the Arctic OCS. Submissions are mandatory. 
BOEM collects the information to ensure that planned operations will be 
safe; will not adversely affect the marine, coastal, or human 
environments; will respond to the special conditions on the Arctic OCS; 
and will conserve the resources of the Arctic OCS. BOEM uses the 
information to ensure, through advanced planning, that operators are 
capable of safely operating in the unique environmental conditions of 
the Arctic and to make informed decisions on whether to approve EPs as 
submitted or whether modifications are necessary. BOEM also plans to 
share the preliminary information submitted in the IOP with other 
relevant agencies to provide them the opportunity to engage in 
constructive dialogue/feedback with operators, and each other, early in 
the process.
    The burdens for the current planning requirements under 30 CFR part 
550, subpart B, regulations are approved by OMB under Control Number 
1010-0151 (432,512 hours, $3,939,435 non-hour costs; expiration 3/31/
2018; the current collection can be viewed at www.reginfo.gov/public/). 
When these final regulations become effective, the new IC burdens will 
be consolidated into the existing collection for subpart B.

                                                Burden Breakdown
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                      Average
 Citation 30 CFR part 550, subpart    Reporting & recordkeeping                      number of     Annual burden
                 B                           requirement            Hour burden       annual           hours
                                                                                     responses
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Arctic Integrated Operations Plan (IOP)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New--204..........................  For New Arctic OCS                     2,880               1           2,880
                                     Exploration Activities:
                                     Submit IOP, including all
                                     required information.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Contents of Exploration Plans (EP)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
206...............................  General requirements for       Burdens already covered under               0
                                     plans..                            plans in 1010-0151.
                                                                 --------------------------------
220...............................  Submit Alaska-specific
                                     information..
Expanded--220.....................  For New Arctic OCS                       350               1             350
                                     Exploration Activities:
                                     Submit required Arctic-
                                     specific information with
                                     EP, including confirmations.

[[Page 46559]]

 
Expanded--220.....................  For Existing Arctic OCS                  700               1             700
                                     Exploration Activities:
                                     Revise and resubmit Arctic-
                                     specific information, as
                                     required.
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Total Burden..................  ............................  ..............               3           3,930
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

L. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)

    BOEM and BSEE developed a final Environmental Assessment (EA) and 
have determined this final rule does not have a significant impact on 
the quality of the human environment under the NEPA. The final EA and 
Finding of No Significant Impact is available in conjunction with this 
final rule at www.regulations.gov (BSEE-2013-0011).

M. Data Quality Act

    In developing this rule, we did not conduct or use a study, 
experiment, or survey requiring peer review under the Data Quality Act 
(Pub. L. 106-554, app. C section 515, 114 Stat. 2763, 2763A-153-154).
    The Bureaus received two comments on the Data Quality Act. One 
comment asserted the NPRM, the Draft EA and the initial RIA violated 
the Information Quality Act (IQA) peer review requirements as well as 
associated IQA Guidelines.
    We disagree. The IQA applies to information disseminated by Federal 
agencies and establishes basic quality performance goals for such 
information.\50\ However, the IQA is not applicable to this rulemaking, 
including the associated Draft EA or initial RIA, because the Bureaus 
did not disseminate materials with information subject to the IQA. The 
rulemaking and associated analyses contain information the Bureaus 
relied on during the formulation of the final rule. The Bureaus made 
the proposed rulemaking publicly available and sought public input. 
However, we did not ``disseminate'' (i.e., conduct an agency-sponsored 
distribution of information to the public) a study, analysis, or other 
[similar] information as part of this rulemaking that implicates the 
IQA.\51\ Accordingly, the IQA does not apply to the actions associated 
with this rulemaking.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \50\ Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for 
Fiscal Year 2001, sec. 515 (Pub. L. 106-554) (Dec. 21, 2000).
    \51\ See OMB regulations at 5 CFR part 1320, Controlling 
Paperwork Burdens on the Public.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The second comment recommended the IC Requests in this final rule 
should be withdrawn by DOI or denied by OMB because the DOI burden 
estimates and the rest of the PRA analysis violate the IQA requirement 
for peer review as well as OMB and DOI IQA guidelines.
    BOEM and BSEE disagree. The IC Requests are publicly available, but 
they are not disseminated to the public as that term is used in the 
IQA. In other words, the ICRs reflect information on which the Bureaus 
relied in reaching their decision, not an agency-sponsored distribution 
of information to the public. Therefore, the IQA, including the peer-
review provisions, is not implicated by the content of the Bureaus' IC 
Request submissions to OMB. Also, the Bureaus' IC Requests have 
reasonably demonstrated that they have practical utility under the OMB 
definition, and the commenter provides no legitimate legal reason for 
recommending their withdrawal.

N. Effects on the Nation's Energy Supply (E.O. 13211)

    This rule is not a significant energy action under the definition 
of that term in E.O. 13211 because:
    1. It is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the 
supply, distribution or use of energy; and
    2. It has not been designated as a significant energy action by the 
Administrator of OIRA.
    Thus, a Statement of Energy Effects is not required.
    Due to the inherent practical difficulties of exploration and 
production in the Arctic, to date there has been minimal exploration 
activity, and very little production of oil and gas, on the Arctic OCS. 
The only existing oil production from the Arctic OCS is through the 
Northstar Island facility in State of Alaska waters.
    The regulations' cumulative effects (including baseline provisions) 
are not expected to affect long-term activity. This regulation 
establishes specific guidelines that protect the Arctic environment and 
makes explicit the requirements that operators will face. Protecting 
the Arctic region from a catastrophic oil spill is imperative for the 
long-term hydrocarbon development of the region.
    We note that, although the rule might have a short-term impact on 
Arctic OCS exploration and development, other factors over which BOEM 
and BSEE have no control are likely to have a much greater effect on 
the rate of oil production from the Arctic OCS region. The primary 
external factor is the market price of oil and gas. The pace of 
exploration and development responds to changes in oil prices, with the 
pace slowing down when prices are decreasing and the pace accelerating 
when prices are rising.
    The Arctic region of Alaska has not previously relied on the type 
of offshore drilling regulated by this final rule for economic 
development or well-being. The OCSLA states that the policy of the U.S. 
is both to make the OCS available for production and development as 
well as to ensure that operations are conducted safely. Lessees, 
particularly in the Arctic, obtain OCS leases and pursue exploration 
with a full understanding of this dynamic. This rulemaking reflects the 
Bureaus' reasonable and appropriate fulfillment of their multifaceted 
OCSLA mandates.

O. Clarity of This Regulation

    We are required by E.O. 12866, E.O. 12988, and by the Presidential 
Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This 
means that each rule we publish must:
    1. Be logically organized;
    2. Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    3. Use clear language rather than jargon;
    4. Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    5. Use lists and tables wherever possible.

List of Subjects

30 CFR Part 250

    Administrative practice and procedure, Continental shelf, 
Environmental impact statements, Environmental protection, 
Incorporation

[[Page 46560]]

by reference, Investigations, Government contracts, Oil and gas 
exploration, Penalties, Pipelines, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Sulfur.

30 CFR Part 254

    Continental shelf, Environmental protection, Intergovernmental 
relations, Oil and gas exploration, Oil pollution, Pipelines, Reporting 
and recordkeeping requirements.

30 CFR Part 550

    Administrative practice and procedure, Continental shelf, 
Environmental impact statements, Environmental protection, Government 
contracts, Incorporation by reference, Investigations, Oil and gas 
exploration, Penalties, Pipelines, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Sulfur.

    Dated: June 28, 2016.
Janice M. Schneider,
Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals Management.
    For the reasons stated in the preamble, BOEM and BSEE amend 30 CFR 
parts 250, 254, and 550 as follows:

Title 30--Mineral Resources

CHAPTER II--BUREAU OF SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT, DEPARTMENT 
OF THE INTERIOR

PART 250--OIL AND GAS AND SULFUR OPERATIONS IN THE OUTER 
CONTINENTAL SHELF

0
1. The authority citation for 30 CFR part 250 is revised to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 30 U.S.C. 1751, 31 U.S.C. 9701, 33 U.S.C. 
1321(j)(1)(C), 43 U.S.C. 1334.


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2. Amend Sec.  250.105 by:
0
a. Revising the definition of ``District Manager''; and
0
b. Adding definitions for ``Arctic OCS'', ``Arctic OCS conditions'', 
``Cap and flow system'', ``Capping stack'', ``Containment dome'', and 
``Source control and containment equipment (SCCE)'' in alphabetical 
order.
    The revision and additions read as follows:


Sec.  250.105  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Arctic OCS means the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas 
(for more information on these areas, see the Proposed Final OCS Oil 
and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (June 2012) at http://www.boem.gov/Oil-and-Gas-Energy-Program/Leasing/Five-Year-Program/2012-2017/Program-Area-Maps/index.aspx).
    Arctic OCS conditions means, for the purposes of this part, the 
conditions operators can reasonably expect during operations on the 
Arctic OCS. Such conditions, depending on the time of year, include, 
but are not limited to: Extreme cold, freezing spray, snow, extended 
periods of low light, strong winds, dense fog, sea ice, strong 
currents, and dangerous sea states. Remote location, relative lack of 
infrastructure, and the existence of subsistence hunting and fishing 
areas are also characteristic of the Arctic region.
* * * * *
    Cap and flow system means an integrated suite of equipment and 
vessels, including a capping stack and associated flow lines, that, 
when installed or positioned, is used to control the flow of fluids 
escaping from the well by conveying the fluids to the surface to a 
vessel or facility equipped to process the flow of oil, gas, and water. 
A cap and flow system is a high pressure system that includes the 
capping stack and piping necessary to convey the flowing fluids through 
the choke manifold to the surface equipment.
    Capping stack means a mechanical device, including one that is pre-
positioned, that can be installed on top of a subsea or surface 
wellhead or blowout preventer to stop the uncontrolled flow of fluids 
into the environment.
* * * * *
    Containment dome means a non-pressurized container that can be used 
to collect fluids escaping from the well or equipment below the sea 
surface or from seeps by suspending the device over the discharge or 
seep location. The containment dome includes all of the equipment 
necessary to capture and convey fluids to the surface.
* * * * *
    District Manager means the BSEE officer with authority and 
responsibility for operations or other designated program functions for 
a district within a BSEE Region. For activities on the Alaska OCS, any 
reference in this part to District Manager means the BSEE Regional 
Supervisor.
* * * * *
    Source control and containment equipment (SCCE) means the capping 
stack, cap and flow system, containment dome, and/or other subsea and 
surface devices, equipment, and vessels the collective purpose of which 
is to control a spill source and stop the flow of fluids into the 
environment or to contain fluids escaping into the environment. 
``Surface devices'' refers to equipment mounted or staged on a barge, 
vessel, or facility to separate, treat, store and/or dispose of fluids 
conveyed to the surface by the cap and flow system or the containment 
dome. ``Subsea devices'' includes, but is not limited to, remotely 
operated vehicles, anchors, buoyancy equipment, connectors, cameras, 
controls and other subsea equipment necessary to facilitate the 
deployment, operation, and retrieval of the SCCE. The SCCE does not 
include a blowout preventer.
* * * * *

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3. Amend Sec.  250.188 by adding paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  250.188  What incidents must I report to BSEE and when must I 
report them?

* * * * *
    (c) On the Arctic OCS, in addition to the requirements of 
paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, you must provide to the BSEE 
inspector on location, if one is present, or to the Regional 
Supervisor, both of the following:
    (1) An immediate oral report if any of the following occur:
    (i) Any sea ice movement or condition that has the potential to 
affect your operation or trigger ice management activities;
    (ii) The start and termination of ice management activities; or
    (iii) Any ``kicks'' or operational issues that are unexpected and 
could result in the loss of well control.
    (2) Within 24 hours after completing ice management activities, a 
written report of such activities that conforms to the content 
requirements in Sec.  250.190.

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4. Amend Sec.  250.198 by adding paragraph (h)(95) to read as follows:


Sec.  250.198  Documents incorporated by reference.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *
    (95) ANSI/API RP 2N, Third Edition, ``Recommended Practice for 
Planning, Designing, and Constructing Structures and Pipelines for 
Arctic Conditions'', Third Edition, April 2015; incorporated by 
reference at Sec.  250.470(g);
* * * * *

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5. Amend Sec.  250.300 by revising paragraphs (b)(1) and (2) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  250.300  Pollution prevention.

* * * * *
    (b)(1) The District Manager may restrict the rate of drilling fluid 
discharges or prescribe alternative discharge methods. The District 
Manager may also restrict the use of components that could cause 
unreasonable degradation to the marine environment. No petroleum-based 
substances, including diesel fuel, may

[[Page 46561]]

be added to the drilling mud system without prior approval of the 
District Manager. For Arctic OCS exploratory drilling, you must capture 
all petroleum-based mud to prevent its discharge into the marine 
environment. The Regional Supervisor may also require you to capture, 
during your Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations, all water-based 
mud from operations after completion of the hole for the conductor 
casing to prevent its discharge into the marine environment, based on 
various factors including, but not limited to:
    (i) The proximity of your exploratory drilling operation to 
subsistence hunting and fishing locations;
    (ii) The extent to which discharged mud may cause marine mammals to 
alter their migratory patterns in a manner that impedes subsistence 
users' access to, or use of, those resources, or increases the risk of 
injury to subsistence users; or
    (iii) The extent to which discharged mud may adversely affect 
marine mammals, fish, or their habitat.
    (2) You must obtain approval from the District Manager of the 
method you plan to use to dispose of drill cuttings, sand, and other 
well solids. For Arctic OCS exploratory drilling, you must capture all 
cuttings from operations that utilize petroleum-based mud to prevent 
their discharge into the marine environment. The Regional Supervisor 
may also require you to capture, during your Arctic OCS exploratory 
drilling operations, all cuttings from operations that utilize water-
based mud after completion of the hole for the conductor casing to 
prevent their discharge into the marine environment, based on various 
factors including, but not limited to:
    (i) The proximity of your exploratory drilling operation to 
subsistence hunting and fishing locations;
    (ii) The extent to which discharged cuttings may cause marine 
mammals to alter their migratory patterns in a manner that impedes 
subsistence users' access to, or use of, those resources, or increases 
the risk of injury to subsistence users; or
    (iii) The extent to which discharged cuttings may adversely affect 
marine mammals, fish, or their habitat.
* * * * *

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6. Amend Sec.  250.418 by adding paragraph (j) to read as follows:


Sec.  250.418  What additional information must I submit with my APD?

* * * * *
    (j) For Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations, you must 
provide the information required by Sec.  250.470.

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7. Add Sec.  250.452 to read as follows:


Sec.  250.452  What are the real-time monitoring requirements for 
Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations?

    (a) When conducting exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic 
OCS, you must gather and monitor real-time data using an independent, 
automatic, and continuous monitoring system capable of recording, 
storing, and transmitting data regarding the following:
    (1) The BOP control system;
    (2) The well's fluid handling systems on the rig; and
    (3) The well's downhole conditions as monitored by a downhole 
sensing system, when such a system is installed.
    (b) During well operations, you must transmit the data identified 
in paragraph (a) of this section as they are gathered, barring 
unforeseeable or unpreventable interruptions in transmission, and have 
the capability to monitor the data onshore, using qualified personnel. 
Onshore personnel who monitor real-time data must have the capability 
to contact rig personnel during operations. After well operations, you 
must store the data at a designated location for recordkeeping purposes 
as required in Sec. Sec.  250.740 and 250.741. You must provide BSEE 
with access to your real-time monitoring data onshore upon request.

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8. Add an undesignated center heading and Sec. Sec.  250.470 through 
250.473 to subpart D to read as follows:

Additional Arctic OCS Requirements


Sec.  250.470  What additional information must I submit with my APD 
for Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations?

    In addition to complying with all other applicable requirements 
included in this part, you must provide with your APD all of the 
following information pertaining to your proposed Arctic OCS 
exploratory drilling:
    (a) A detailed description of:
    (1) The environmental, meteorological, and oceanic conditions you 
expect to encounter at the well site(s);
    (2) How you will prepare your equipment, materials, and drilling 
unit for service in the conditions identified in paragraph (a)(1) of 
this section, and how your drilling unit will be in compliance with the 
requirements of Sec.  250.713.
    (b) A detailed description of all operations necessary in Arctic 
OCS conditions to transition the rig from being under way to conducting 
drilling operations and from ending drilling operations to being under 
way, as well as any anticipated repair and maintenance plans for the 
drilling unit and equipment. You should include, among other things, a 
description of how you plan to:
    (1) Recover the subsea equipment, including the marine riser and 
the lower marine riser package;
    (2) Recover the BOP;
    (3) Recover the auxiliary sub-sea controls and template;
    (4) Lay down the drill pipe and secure the drill pipe and marine 
riser;
    (5) Secure the drilling equipment;
    (6) Transfer the fluids for transport or disposal;
    (7) Secure ancillary equipment like the draw works and lines;
    (8) Refuel or transfer fuel;
    (9) Offload waste;
    (10) Recover the Remotely Operated Vehicles;
    (11) Pick up the oil spill prevention booms and equipment; and
    (12) Offload the drilling crew.
    (c) A description of well-specific drilling objectives, timelines, 
and updated contingency plans for temporary abandonment of the well, 
including but not limited to the following:
    (1) When you will spud the particular well (i.e., begin drilling 
operations at the well site) identified in the APD;
    (2) How long you will take to drill the well;
    (3) Anticipated depths and geologic targets, with timelines;
    (4) When you expect to set and cement each string of casing;
    (5) When and how you would log the well;
    (6) Your plans to test the well;
    (7) When and how you intend to abandon the well, including 
specifically addressing your plans for how to move the rig off location 
and how you will meet the requirements of Sec.  250.720(c);
    (8) A description of what equipment and vessels will be involved in 
the process of temporarily abandoning the well due to ice; and
    (9) An explanation of how you will integrate these elements into 
your overall program.
    (d) A detailed description of your weather and ice forecasting 
capability for all phases of the drilling operation, including:
    (1) How you will ensure your continuous awareness of potential 
weather and ice hazards at, and during transition between, wells;
    (2) Your plans for managing ice hazards and responding to weather 
events; and
    (3) Verification that you have the capabilities described in your 
BOEM-approved EP.

[[Page 46562]]

    (e) A detailed description of how you will comply with the 
requirements of Sec.  250.472.
    (f) A statement that you own, or have a contract with a provider 
for, source control and containment equipment (SCCE), which is capable 
of controlling and/or containing a worst case discharge, as described 
in your BOEM-approved EP, when proposing to use a MODU to conduct 
exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS. The following 
information must be included in your SCCE submittal:
    (1) A detailed description of your or your contractor's SCCE 
capability to stop or contain flow from an out-of-control well, 
including your operating assumptions and limitations; your access to 
and ability to deploy, in accordance with Sec.  250.471, all necessary 
SCCE; and your ability to evaluate the performance of the well design 
to determine how you can achieve a full shut-in without having 
reservoir fluids discharged into the environment;
    (2) An inventory of the local and regional SCCE, supplies, and 
services that you own or for which you have a contract with a provider. 
You must identify each supplier of such equipment and services and 
provide their locations and telephone numbers;
    (3) Where applicable, proof of contracts or membership agreements 
with cooperatives, service providers, or other contractors who will 
provide you with the necessary SCCE or related supplies and services if 
you do not possess them. The contract or membership agreement must 
include provisions for ensuring the availability of the personnel and/
or equipment on a 24-hour per day basis while you are drilling below or 
working below the surface casing;
    (4) A detailed description of the procedures you plan to use to 
inspect, test, and maintain your SCCE; and
    (5) A detailed description of your plan to ensure that all members 
of your operating team, who are responsible for operating the SCCE, 
have received the necessary training to deploy and operate such 
equipment in Arctic OCS conditions and demonstrate ongoing proficiency 
in source control operations. You must also identify and include the 
dates of prior and planned training.
    (g) Where it does not conflict with other requirements of this 
subpart, and except as provided in paragraphs (g)(1) through (11) of 
this section, you must comply with the requirements of API RP 2N, Third 
Edition ``Planning, Designing, and Constructing Structures and 
Pipelines for Arctic Conditions'' (incorporated by reference as 
specified in Sec.  250.198), and provide a detailed description of how 
you will utilize the best practices included in API RP 2N during your 
exploratory drilling operations. You are not required to incorporate 
the following sections of API RP 2N into your drilling operations:
    (1) Sections 6.6.3 through 6.6.4;
    (2) The foundation recommendations in Section 8.4;
    (3) Section 9.6;
    (4) The recommendations for permanently moored systems in Section 
9.7;
    (5) The recommendations for pile foundations in Section 9.10;
    (6) Section 12;
    (7) Section 13.2.1;
    (8) Sections 13.8.1.1, 13.8.2.1, 13.8.2.2, 13.8.2.4 through 
13.8.2.7;
    (9) Sections 13.9.1, 13.9.2, 13.9.4 through 13.9.8;
    (10) Sections 14 through 16; and
    (11) Section 18.


Sec.  250.471  What are the requirements for Arctic OCS source control 
and containment?

    You must meet the following requirements for all exploration wells 
drilled on the Arctic OCS:
    (a) If you use a MODU when drilling below or working below the 
surface casing, you must have access to the following SCCE capable of 
stopping or capturing the flow of an out-of-control well:
    (1) A capping stack, positioned to ensure that it will arrive at 
the well location within 24 hours after a loss of well control and can 
be deployed as directed by the Regional Supervisor pursuant to 
paragraph (h) of this section;
    (2) A cap and flow system, positioned to ensure that it will arrive 
at the well location within 7 days after a loss of well control and can 
be deployed as directed by the Regional Supervisor pursuant to 
paragraph (h) of this section. The cap and flow system must be designed 
to capture at least the amount of hydrocarbons equivalent to the 
calculated worst case discharge rate referenced in your BOEM-approved 
EP; and
    (3) A containment dome, positioned to ensure that it will arrive at 
the well location within 7 days after a loss of well control and can be 
deployed as directed by the Regional Supervisor pursuant to paragraph 
(h) of this section. The containment dome must have the capacity to 
pump fluids without relying on buoyancy.
    (b) You must conduct a monthly stump test of dry-stored capping 
stacks. If you use a pre-positioned capping stack, you must conduct a 
stump test prior to each installation on each well.
    (c) As required by Sec.  250.465(a), if you propose to change your 
well design, you must submit an APM. For Arctic OCS operations, your 
APM must include a reevaluation of your SCCE capabilities for any new 
Worst Case Discharge (WCD) rate, and a demonstration that your SCCE 
capabilities will meet the criteria in Sec.  250.470(f) under the 
changed well design.
    (d) You must conduct tests or exercises of your SCCE, including 
deployment of your SCCE, when directed by the Regional Supervisor.
    (e) You must maintain records pertaining to testing, inspection, 
and maintenance of your SCCE for at least 10 years and make the records 
available to any authorized BSEE representative upon request.
    (f) You must maintain records pertaining to the use of your SCCE 
during testing, training, and deployment activities for at least 3 
years and make the records available to any authorized BSEE 
representative upon request.
    (g) Upon a loss of well control, you must initiate transit of all 
SCCE identified in paragraph (a) of this section to the well.
    (h) You must deploy and use SCCE when directed by the Regional 
Supervisor.
    (i) Operators may request approval of alternate procedures or 
equipment to the SCCE requirements of subparagraph (a) of this section 
in accordance with Sec.  250.141. The operator must show and document 
that the alternate procedures or equipment will provide a level of 
safety and environmental protection that will meet or exceed the level 
of safety and environmental protection required by BSEE regulations, 
including demonstrating that the alternate procedures or equipment will 
be capable of stopping or capturing the flow of an out-of-control well.


Sec.  250.472  What are the relief rig requirements for the Arctic OCS?

    (a) In the event of a loss of well control, the Regional Supervisor 
may direct you to drill a relief well using the relief rig able to kill 
and permanently plug an out-of-control well as described in your APD. 
Your relief rig must comply with all other requirements of this part 
pertaining to drill rig characteristics and capabilities, and it must 
be able to drill a relief well under anticipated Arctic OCS conditions.
    (b) When you are drilling below or working below the surface casing 
during Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations, you must have access 
to a relief rig, different from your primary drilling rig, staged in a 
location such that it can arrive on site, drill a relief

[[Page 46563]]

well, kill and abandon the original well, and abandon the relief well 
prior to expected seasonal ice encroachment at the drill site, but no 
later than 45 days after the loss of well control.
    (c) Operators may request approval of alternative compliance 
measures to the relief rig requirement in accordance with Sec.  
250.141. The operator must show and document that the alternate 
compliance measure will meet or exceed the level of safety and 
environmental protection required by BSEE regulations, including 
demonstrating that the alternate compliance measure will be able to 
kill and permanently plug an out-of-control well.


Sec.  250.473  What must I do to protect health, safety, property, and 
the environment while operating on the Arctic OCS?

    In addition to the requirements set forth in Sec.  250.107, when 
conducting exploratory drilling operations on the Arctic OCS, you must 
protect health, safety, property, and the environment by using the 
following:
    (a) Equipment and materials that are rated or de-rated for service 
under conditions that can be reasonably expected during your 
operations; and
    (b) Measures to address human factors associated with weather 
conditions that can be reasonably expected during your operations 
including, but not limited to, provision of proper attire and 
equipment, construction of protected work spaces, and management of 
shifts.

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9. Amend Sec.  250.720 by adding paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  250.720  When and how must I secure a well?

* * * * *
    (c) For Arctic OCS exploratory drilling operations, in addition to 
the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section:
    (1) If you move your drilling rig off a well prior to completion or 
permanent abandonment, you must ensure that any equipment left on, 
near, or in a wellbore that has penetrated below the surface casing is 
positioned in a manner to:
    (i) Protect the well head; and
    (ii) Prevent or minimize the likelihood of compromising the down-
hole integrity of the well or the effectiveness of the well plugs.
    (2) In areas of ice scour you must use a well mudline cellar or an 
equivalent means of minimizing the risk of damage to the well head and 
wellbore. BSEE may approve an equivalent means that will meet or exceed 
the level of safety and environmental protection provided by a mudline 
cellar if the operator can show that utilizing a mudline cellar would 
compromise the stability of the rig, impede access to the well head 
during a well control event, or otherwise create operational risks.

0
10. Amend Sec.  250.1920 by:
0
a. Adding a sentence at the end of paragraphs (b)(5), (c), and (d); and
0
b. Adding paragraphs (f) and (g).
    The additions read as follows:


Sec.  250.1920  What are the auditing requirements for my SEMS program?

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (5) * * * For exploratory drilling operations taking place on the 
Arctic OCS, you must conduct an audit, consisting of an onshore portion 
and an offshore portion, including all related infrastructure, once per 
year for every year in which drilling is conducted.
* * * * *
    (c) * * * For exploratory drilling operations taking place on the 
Arctic OCS, you must submit an audit report of the audit findings, 
observations, deficiencies and conclusions for the onshore portion of 
your audit no later than March 1 in any year in which you plan to 
drill, and for the offshore portion of your audit, within 30 days of 
the close of the audit.
    (d) * * * For exploratory drilling operations taking place on the 
Arctic OCS, you must provide BSEE with a copy of your CAP for 
addressing deficiencies or nonconformities identified in the onshore 
portion of the audit no later than March 1 in any year in which you 
plan to drill, and for the offshore portion of your audit, within 30 
days of the close of the audit.
* * * * *
    (f) For exploratory drilling operations taking place on the Arctic 
OCS, during the offshore portion of each audit, 100 percent of the 
facilities operated must be audited while drilling activities are 
underway. You must start and close the offshore portion of the audit 
for each facility within 30 days after the first spudding of the well 
or entry into an existing wellbore for any purpose from that facility.
    (g) For exploratory drilling operations taking place on the Arctic 
OCS, if BSEE determines that the CAP or progress toward implementing 
the CAP is not satisfactory, BSEE may order you to shut down all or 
part of your operations.

PART 254--OIL-SPILL RESPONSE REQUIREMENTS FOR FACILITIES LOCATED 
SEAWARD OF THE COAST LINE

0
11. The authority citation for 30 CFR part 254 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 33 U.S.C. 1321.

0
12. Amend Sec.  254.6 by:
0
a. Revising the definition of ``Adverse weather conditions;'' and
0
b. Adding definitions for ``Arctic OCS'' and ``Ice intervention 
practices'' in alphabetical order.
    The revision and additions read as follows:


Sec.  254.6  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Adverse weather conditions means, for the purposes of this part, 
weather conditions found in the operating area that make it difficult 
for response equipment and personnel to clean up or remove spilled oil 
or hazardous substances. These conditions include, but are not limited 
to: fog, inhospitable water and air temperatures, wind, sea ice, 
extreme cold, freezing spray, snow, currents, sea states, and extended 
periods of low light. Adverse weather conditions do not refer to 
conditions under which it would be dangerous or impossible to respond 
to a spill, such as a hurricane.
    Arctic OCS means the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas 
(for more information on these areas, see the Proposed Final OCS Oil 
and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (June 2012) at http://www.boem.gov/Oil-and-Gas-Energy-Program/Leasing/Five-Year-Program/2012-2017/Program-Area-Maps/index.aspx).
* * * * *
    Ice intervention practices mean the equipment, vessels, and 
procedures used to increase oil encounter rates and the effectiveness 
of spill response techniques and equipment when sea ice is present.
* * * * *

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13. Add Sec.  254.55 to subpart D to read as follows:


Sec.  254.55  Spill response plans for facilities located in Alaska 
State waters seaward of the coast line in the Chukchi and Beaufort 
Seas.

    Response plans for facilities conducting exploratory drilling 
operations from a MODU seaward of the coast line in Alaska State waters 
in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas must follow the requirements contained 
within subpart E of this part, in addition to the other requirements of 
this subpart. Such response plans must address how the source control 
procedures selected to comply with State law will be integrated into 
the planning, training, and exercise requirements of Sec. Sec.  
254.70(a), 254.90(a), and 254.90(c), in the event that the proposed 
operations do not incorporate the capping stack, cap and flow system, 
containment dome, and/or other similar subsea and surface devices and

[[Page 46564]]

equipment and vessels referenced in those sections.

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14. Add subpart E to read as follows:
Subpart E--Oil-Spill Response Requirements for Facilities Located on 
the Arctic OCS
Sec.
254.65 Purpose.
254.66 through 254.69 [Reserved]
254.70 What are the additional requirements for facilities 
conducting exploratory drilling from a MODU on the Arctic OCS?
254.71 through 254.79 [Reserved]
254.80 What additional information must I include in the ``Emergency 
response action plan'' section for facilities conducting exploratory 
drilling from a MODU on the Arctic OCS?
254.81 through 254.89 [Reserved]
254.90 What are the additional requirements for exercises of your 
response personnel and equipment for facilities conducting 
exploratory drilling from a MODU on the Arctic OCS?

Subpart E--Oil-Spill Response Requirements for Facilities Located 
on the Arctic OCS


Sec.  254.65  Purpose.

    This subpart describes the additional requirements for preparing 
OSRPs and maintaining oil spill preparedness for facilities conducting 
exploratory drilling operations from a mobile offshore drilling unit 
(MODU) on the Arctic OCS.


Sec. Sec.  254.66 through 254.69  [Reserved]


Sec.  254.70  What are the additional requirements for facilities 
conducting exploratory drilling from a MODU on the Arctic OCS?

    In addition to meeting the applicable requirements of this part, 
your OSRP must:
    (a) Describe how the relevant personnel, equipment, materials, and 
support vessels associated with the capping stack, cap and flow system, 
containment dome, and other similar subsea and surface devices and 
equipment and vessels will be integrated into oil spill response 
incident action planning;
    (b) Describe how you will address human factors, such as cold 
stress and cold related conditions, associated with oil spill response 
activities in adverse weather conditions and their impacts on decision-
making and health and safety; and
    (c) Undergo plan-holder review prior to handling, storing, or 
transporting oil in connection with seasonal exploratory drilling 
activities, and all resulting modifications must be submitted to the 
Regional Supervisor. If this review does not result in modifications, 
you must inform the Regional Supervisor in writing that there are no 
changes. The requirements of this paragraph (c) are in lieu of the 
requirements in Sec.  254.30(a).


Sec. Sec.  254.71 through 254.79  [Reserved]


Sec.  254.80  What additional information must I include in the 
``Emergency response action plan'' section for facilities conducting 
exploratory drilling from a MODU on the Arctic OCS?

    In addition to the requirements in Sec.  254.23, you must include 
the following information in the emergency response action plan section 
of your OSRP:
    (a) A description of your ice intervention practices and how they 
will improve the effectiveness of the oil spill response options and 
strategies that are listed in your OSRP in the presence of sea ice. 
When developing the ice intervention practices for your OSRP, you must 
consider, at a minimum, the use of specialized tactics, modified 
response equipment, ice management assist vessels, and technologies for 
the identification, tracking, containment and removal of oil in ice.
    (b) On areas of the Arctic OCS where a planned shore-based response 
would not satisfy Sec.  254.1(a):
    (1) A list of all resources required to ensure an effective 
offshore-based response capable of operating in adverse weather 
conditions. This list must include a description of how you will ensure 
the shortest possible transit times, including but not limited to 
establishing an offshore resource management capability (e.g., sea-
based staging, maintenance, and berthing logistics); and
    (2) A list and description of logistics resupply chains, including 
waste management, that effectively factor in the remote and limited 
infrastructure that exists in the Arctic and ensure you can adequately 
sustain all oil spill response activities for the duration of the 
response. The components of the logistics supply chain include, but are 
not limited to:
    (i) Personnel and equipment transport services;
    (ii) Airfields and types of aircraft that can be supported;
    (iii) Capabilities to mobilize supplies (e.g., response equipment, 
fuel, food, fresh water) and personnel to the response sites;
    (iv) Onshore staging areas, storage areas that may be used en-route 
to staging areas, and camp facilities to support response personnel 
conducting offshore, nearshore and shoreline response; and
    (v) Management of recovered fluid and contaminated debris and 
response materials (e.g., oiled sorbents), as well as waste streams 
generated at offshore and on-shore support facilities (e.g., sewage, 
food, and medical).
    (c) A description of the system you will use to maintain real-time 
location tracking for all response resources while operating, 
transiting, or staging/maintaining such resources during a spill 
response.


Sec. Sec.  254.81 through 254.89  [Reserved]


Sec.  254.90  What are the additional requirements for exercises of 
your response personnel and equipment for facilities conducting 
exploratory drilling from a MODU on the Arctic OCS?

    In addition to the requirements in Sec.  254.42, the following 
requirements apply to exercises for your response personnel and 
equipment for facilities conducting exploratory drilling from a MODU on 
the Arctic OCS:
    (a) You must incorporate the personnel, materials, and equipment 
identified in Sec.  254.70(a), the safe working practices identified in 
Sec.  254.70(b), the ice intervention practices described in Sec.  
254.80(a), the offshore-based response requirements in Sec.  254.80(b), 
and the resource tracking requirements in Sec.  254.80(c) into your 
spill-response training and exercise activities.
    (b) For each season in which you plan to conduct exploratory 
drilling operations from a MODU on the Arctic OCS, you must notify the 
Regional Supervisor 60 days prior to handling, storing, or transporting 
oil.
    (c) After the Regional Supervisor receives notice pursuant to Sec.  
254.90(b), the Regional Supervisor may direct you to deploy and operate 
your spill response equipment and/or your capping stack, cap and flow 
system, and containment dome, and other similar subsea and surface 
devices and equipment and vessels, as part of announced or unannounced 
exercises or compliance inspections. For the purposes of this section, 
spill response equipment does not include the use of blowout 
preventers, diverters, heavy weight mud to kill the well, relief wells, 
or other similar conventional well control options.

CHAPTER V--BUREAU OF OCEAN ENERGY MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF THE 
INTERIOR

PART 550--OIL AND GAS AND SULFUR OPERATIONS IN THE OUTER 
CONTINENTAL SHELF

0
15. The authority citation for 30 CFR part 550 is revised to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  30 U.S.C. 1751; 31 U.S.C. 9701; 43 U.S.C. 1334.


[[Page 46565]]



0
16. Amend Sec.  550.105 by adding definitions for ``Arctic OCS'' and 
``Arctic OCS conditions'' in alphabetical order to read as follows:


Sec.  550.105  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Arctic OCS means the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas 
(for more information on these areas, see the Proposed Final OCS Oil 
and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (June 2012) at http://www.boem.gov/Oil-and-Gas-Energy-Program/Leasing/Five-Year-Program/2012-2017/Program-Area-Maps/index.aspx).
    Arctic OCS conditions means, for the purposes of this part, the 
conditions operators can reasonably expect during operations on the 
Arctic OCS. Such conditions, depending on the time of year, include, 
but are not limited to: extreme cold, freezing spray, snow, extended 
periods of low light, strong winds, dense fog, sea ice, strong 
currents, and dangerous sea states. Remote location, relative lack of 
infrastructure, and the existence of subsistence hunting and fishing 
areas are also characteristic of the Arctic region.
* * * * *

0
17. Amend Sec.  550.200 in paragraph (a) by adding the term ``IOP'' in 
alphabetical order:


Sec.  550.200  Definitions.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    IOP means Integrated Operations Plan.
* * * * *

0
18. Add Sec.  550.204 to read as follows:


Sec.  550.204  When must I submit my IOP for proposed Arctic 
exploratory drilling operations and what must the IOP include?

    If you propose exploratory drilling activities on the Arctic OCS, 
you must submit an Integrated Operations Plan (IOP) to the Regional 
Supervisor at least 90 days prior to filing your EP. Your IOP must 
describe how your exploratory drilling program will be designed and 
conducted in an integrated manner that accounts for Arctic OCS 
conditions and include the following information:
    (a) A description of how all vessels and equipment will be 
designed, built, and/or modified to account for Arctic OCS conditions;
    (b) A schedule of your exploratory drilling program, including 
contractor work on critical components of your program;
    (c) A description of your mobilization and demobilization 
operations, including tow plans that account for Arctic OCS conditions, 
as well as your general maintenance schedule for vessels and equipment;
    (d) A description of your exploratory drilling program objectives 
and timelines for each objective, including general plans for 
abandonment of the well(s), such as:
    (1) Contingency plans for temporary abandonment in the event of ice 
encroachment at the drill site;
    (2) Plans for permanent abandonment; and
    (3) Plans for temporary seasonal abandonment.
    (e) A description of your weather and ice forecasting capabilities 
for all phases of the exploration program, including a description of 
how you would respond to and manage ice hazards and weather events;
    (f) A description of work to be performed by contractors supporting 
your exploration drilling program (including mobilization and 
demobilization), including:
    (1) How such work will be designed or modified to account for 
Arctic OCS conditions; and
    (2) Your concepts for contractor management, oversight, and risk 
management.
    (g) A description of how you will ensure operational safety while 
working in Arctic OCS conditions, including but not limited to:
    (1) The safety principles that you intend to apply to yourself and 
your contractors;
    (2) The accountability structure within your organization for 
implementing such principles;
    (3) How you will communicate such principles to your employees and 
contractors; and
    (4) How you will determine successful implementation of such 
principles.
    (h) Information regarding your preparations and plans for staging 
of oil spill response assets;
    (i) A description of your efforts to minimize impacts of your 
exploratory drilling operations on local community infrastructure, 
including but not limited to housing, energy supplies, and services; 
and
    (j) A description of whether and to what extent your project will 
rely on local community workforce and spill cleanup response capacity.

0
19. Revise Sec.  550.206 to read as follows:


Sec.  550.206  How do I submit the IOP, EP, DPP, or DOCD?

    (a) Number of copies. When you submit an IOP, EP, DPP, or DOCD to 
BOEM, you must provide:
    (1) Four copies that contain all required information (proprietary 
copies);
    (2) Eight copies for public distribution (public information 
copies) that omit information that you assert is exempt from disclosure 
under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. 552) and the 
implementing regulations (43 CFR part 2); and
    (3) Any additional copies that may be necessary to facilitate 
review of the IOP, EP, DPP, or DOCD by certain affected States and 
other reviewing entities.
    (b) Electronic submission. You may submit part or all of your IOP, 
EP, DPP, or DOCD and its accompanying information electronically. If 
you prefer to submit your IOP, EP, DPP, or DOCD electronically, ask the 
Regional Supervisor for further guidance.
    (c) Withdrawal after submission. You may withdraw your proposed 
IOP, EP, DPP, or DOCD at any time for any reason. Notify the 
appropriate BOEM OCS Region if you do.

0
20. Amend Sec.  550.220 by revising paragraph (a) and adding paragraph 
(c) to read as follows:


Sec.  550.220  If I propose activities in the Alaska OCS Region, what 
planning information must accompany the EP?

* * * * *
    (a) Emergency plans. A description of your emergency plans to 
respond to a fire, explosion, personnel evacuation, or loss of well 
control, as well as a loss or disablement of a drilling unit, and loss 
of or damage to a support vessel, offshore vehicle, or aircraft.
* * * * *
    (c) If you propose exploration activities on the Arctic OCS, the 
following planning information must also accompany your EP:
    (1) Suitability for Arctic OCS conditions. A description of how 
your exploratory drilling activities will be designed and conducted in 
a manner that accounts for Arctic OCS conditions and how such 
activities will be managed and overseen as an integrated endeavor.
    (2) Ice and weather management. A description of your weather and 
ice forecasting and management plans for all phases of your exploratory 
drilling activities, including:
    (i) A description of how you will respond to and manage ice hazards 
and weather events;
    (ii) Your ice and weather alert procedures;
    (iii) Your procedures and thresholds for activating your ice and 
weather management system(s); and
    (iv) Confirmation that you will operate ice and weather management

[[Page 46566]]

and alert systems continuously throughout the planned operations, 
including mobilization and demobilization operations to and from the 
Arctic OCS.
    (3) Source control and containment equipment capabilities. A 
general description of how you will comply with Sec.  250.471 of this 
title.
    (4) Deployment of a relief well rig. A general description of how 
you will comply with Sec.  250.472 of this title, including a 
description of the relief well rig, the anticipated staging area of the 
relief well rig, an estimate of the time it would take for the relief 
well rig to arrive at the site of a loss of well control, how you would 
drill a relief well if necessary, and the approximate timeframe to 
complete relief well operations.
    (5) Resource-sharing. Any agreements you have with third parties 
for the sharing of assets or the provision of mutual aid in the event 
of an oil spill or other emergency.
    (6) Anticipated end of seasonal operations dates. Your projected 
end of season dates, and the information used to identify those dates, 
for:
    (i) The completion of on-site operations, which is contingent upon 
your capability in terms of equipment and procedures to manage and 
mitigate risks associated with Arctic OCS conditions; and
    (ii) The termination of drilling operations consistent with the 
relief rig planning requirements under Sec.  250.472 of this title and 
with your estimated timeframe under paragraph (c)(4) of this section 
for completion of relief well operations.

[FR Doc. 2016-15699 Filed 7-14-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4310-MR-P