Feds seek science grads to work on drilling safety

AP News
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 3:45 PM
Feds seek science grads to work on drilling safety

Federal regulators plan to scout U.S. colleges next month for students interested in environmental science in an effort to recruit more workers for the agency that oversees offshore drilling.

Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement, told researchers gathered at a conference in New Orleans on Tuesday that his agency is looking to put more focus on science in its decision-making.

He said the college recruitment initiative will run from April 4 through the end of May. A list of schools regulators plan to visit has not been finalized yet.

Bromwich said new regulations and industry changes have made offshore drilling safer since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster nearly a year ago. He says that momentum must continue.

A moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf imposed after last year's BP oil spill was lifted Oct. 12, but the government has only recently begun issuing permits again for previously suspended activities.

Bromwich told reporters during a break in the conference that more deepwater permits would be issued within the next week or so. A few hours later, regulators announced that a fourth deepwater drilling permit that complies with new safety rules has been approved. This approval was for a revised permit to drill a new well for Exxon Mobil Corp. in 6,941 feet of water roughly 250 miles off the Louisiana coast, south of Lafayette.

Bromwich challenged claims from some oil companies and offshore services firms that the regulations his agency imposed after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion were too strict and far-reaching. He also insisted that criticism his agency has been moving too slowly on the permitting process is off base.

"I think people started to believe their own rhetoric," Bromwich said.