NEWORLEANS - Under fire for not conducting its own safety audits of offshore drilling rigs and oil platforms, the Interior Department announced Thursday that it has signed an agreement with the Coast Guard to coordinate and beef up offshore oversight.
The Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement struck the accord with the Coast Guard as a part of plans it announced in 2012 to work more effectively with the military branch.
Both agencies have jurisdiction but haven't always coordinated well. After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting BP oil spill, the safety bureau added new regulations and inspections and hired more engineers and inspectors, but has relied entirely on industry to conduct its own audits of companies' safety management systems.
This new pact between BSEE and the Coast Guard lays out how they will meet regularly to make sure that oil companies are implementing the proper safety management systems, then conduct joint inspections at least once a year.
The teamwork could be crucial to ensuring that oil companies are following the new safety rules. BSEE has taken a hands-off approach so far, drawing criticism from those who believe the oil industry cannot be trusted to place safety concerns above profits.