U.S. Green-Lights Rig for Cuba Drilling

Monday, January 9, 2012
The Obama Administration has green-lighted Spanish oil company Repsol's rig to drill for oil off Cuba's coast -- in partnership with the Castro dictatorship.

Ironically, two weeks ago, the Administration also green-lighted Repsol's $1 billion acquisition of 364,000 acres of oil and gas producing areas in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Yet another lost opportunity to exert pressure over Repsol, which already has extensive U.S. exploration rights in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

From the U.S. Department of Interior:

BSEE, Coast Guard Complete Review of Repsol Rig

Personnel from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Coast Guard completed a review of the mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) Scarabeo 9 on Jan. 9, 2012, off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago. The review followed an invitation from the vessel’s operator, Repsol. While aboard the Scarabeo 9, personnel reviewed vessel construction, drilling equipment, and safety systems – including lifesaving and firefighting equipment, emergency generators, dynamic positioning systems, machinery spaces, and the blowout preventer – in anticipation of its scheduled drilling operations in Cuba’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the coming months.

The review is consistent with U.S. efforts to minimize the possibility of a major oil spill, which would hurt U.S. economic and environmental interests. The review compared the vessel with applicable international safety and security standards as well as U.S. standards for drilling units operating in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. U.S. personnel found the vessel to generally comply with existing international and U.S. standards by which Repsol has pledged to abide.

BSEE and the Coast Guard exercise no legal or regulatory authority over the MODU or its intended operations in Cuba’s EEZ. Additionally, their review does not confer any form of certification or endorsement under U.S. or international law.

In anticipation of an increase in drilling activities in the Caribbean Basin and Gulf of Mexico, the United States is participating in multilateral discussions with the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico on a broad range of issues including, drilling safety, ocean modeling, and oil spill preparedness and response that are providing valuable information on each country’s plans and capabilities that will improve bilateral and regional cooperation should a major pollution incident occur. The Coast Guard is also working closely with federal, state and local agencies, as well as maritime industry officials to update contingency plans to ensure readiness to respond to any potential oil spills in international waters that could potentially affect U.S. waters and coastline.

At the local-level, Florida Coast Guard Sectors Jacksonville, Miami, Key West and St. Petersburg are updating their Area Contingency Plans, which will provide guidance for near and on-shore response efforts along the coast. In addition, the Coast Guard's Seventh District, headquartered in Miami, is overseeing work on an Offshore Drill Response Plan and Regional Contingency Plan that focuses on response strategies and tactics to combat a spill at sea. More than 80 federal, State of Florida, Florida coastal county and maritime industry representatives held a table top exercise on Nov. 18, 2011, utilizing response plans to address a hypothetical international spill off the coast of Florida. The exercise allowed participants to discuss sensitive environmental areas, planning strategies, likely issues and response coordination principles that responders would face, as well as gather additional information to use in future planning.

The United States remains committed to supporting best practices to prevent and contain oil spills, and is pursuing immediate and long term initiatives that seek to minimize risks to U.S. waters and shores.