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Sierra Daily

Sep 30, 2010

There, I Fixed It!

Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled rules requiring offshore drilling wells to certify that they have functioning blowout preventers. The new regulations also mandate tougher standards for cementing wells, employee training, and risk-management planning. "We are raising the bar for safety, oversight and environmental protection," Salazar told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Salazar said the rules must be in place before the Interior Department lifts its ban on deepwater drilling, set to expire on November 30.

The Interior Department is also considering requiring that blowout preventers be equipped with two sets of blind shear rams. The final fail-safe device in a blowout preventer, a shear ram cuts through and seals a drill pipe. Immediately after the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico, its shear ram failed to deploy; even underwater robots deployed later failed to trigger it.

Two weeks ago, departing BP CEO Tony Hayward defended his company’s efforts, even though all three mechanisms for activating the Macondo well’s blowout preventer failed. “The Gulf of Mexico is a more challenging drilling environment than many other parts of the world.” Hayward told a House of Commons committee. Today is Hayward’s last day on the job.

--Reed McManus

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