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Interior Secretary Jewell asks energy executives to acknowledge own role in regulatory slowdown

BY TOM FOWLER 

HOUSTON -- Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said she asked energy industry executives to accept the role they play in how slowly new regulations move forward, warning them against "throwing regulators under the bus" during a meeting at the Offshore Technology Conference.

Ms. Jewell, on the job for just over a month, said she met privately with executives from BP, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Marathon Oil and other companies and industry groups at the OTC, an annual industry showcase.

"I did poke them about not throwing regulators under the bus or blaming us when there is actually shared responsibility when something doesn' t move forward," the former chief executive of outdoor apparel company REI said to reporters.

Ms. Jewell said it was a "delightful surprise" to find the CEOs were very supportive of the work done by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), both of which are under the Interior Department, to develop better regulations for the offshore industry.

"I didn' t sense any reluctance to embrace regulations," Ms. Jewell said, adding that the Department of Interior' s goal is to provide the industry with consistency, predictability and certainty of regulations.

BSEE Director James Watson, who accompanied Ms. Jewell on Wednesday, said his agency was developing new rules for drilling in the waters of the U.S. Arctic Ocean which would draw upon lessons learned from Royal Dutch Shell' s frustrated efforts to drill there. The company had to cut back on its drilling plans due to equipment damage and delays. After the drilling season ended, it suffered a setback when one of its rigs ran aground. Both Shell and rival ConocoPhillips said they would delay drilling plans in the U.S. Arctic Ocean at least until next year.

Mr. Watson said the new rules wouldn' t be issued using emergency powers -- as had been done with some new rules immediately after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident -- but would still need to be completed quickly in order for companies to be ready to comply with them by 2014.

The visit to Houston was part of Ms. Jewell' s travels to meet officials from the industries her agency oversees. Last week, she visited a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico operated by LLOG Exploration and a deep-water production platform owned by Chevron.

During a tour of the exhibits at the conference, Ms. Jewell heard presentations on 3-D seismic technology, oilfield development, and operated an offshore drilling simulator. A petroleum engineer, who worked for one of the predecessors of ExxonMobil in the 1980s before going into the banking business, Ms. Jewell said much of the equipment she saw on the floor of the show was familiar, just bigger and more technologically sophisticated.

Dow Jones Newswires

05/09/2013

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