Regulatory Tracker

BOEM Offshore Air Quality Rule

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Why it Matters

Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, the Department of the Interior (DOI) underwent a significant reorganization and issued rules and guidance to fill regulatory gaps in emergency response and operational oversight (for more on these changes, see our post on the 10 year anniversary here). President Obama also removed certain areas of the outer continental shelf from oil and gas development. (The outer continental shelf or OCS consists of “all submerged lands lying seaward of state coastal waters…under U.S. jurisdiction.”) Rolling back these rules and designations increases risks to offshore oil worker safety, the non-oil and gas related economic value of oceans and coastal areas, and the ecological well-being of those areas.

Although not specifically tied to the safety reforms following the Deepwater Horizon incident, the Offshore Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance Rule proposed by Obama-era BOEM on April 5, 2016 would have tightened pollution standards for offshore operations and required improved pollution control technology. The proposed rule would have been the first updates to these regulations since 1980.

Click here to view our page on the EO 13795: Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy and the other changes that have followed the EO. For more information on the reforms that followed the Deepwater Horizon disaster, view our 10-year anniversary post here.


April 5, 2016 The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) / DOI proposes an offshore air quality rule to tighten pollution standards for offshore operations and require improved pollution control technology. The proposal amends regulations for air quality measurement, evaluation, and control for offshore oil and gas operations. It would require operators to include support vessels, vehicles, or aircraft in their emissions analyses; require them to recertify their facilities for compliance with air standards regularly; and require aggregation of emissions when evaluating the impacts of facilities. The proposal also changed where emissions were measured, moving the evaluation closer to the offshore facilities; established new requirements for how to evaluate emissions; changed modeling requirements; and changed the criteria for when emissions reduction controls would be required, among other changes.

Trump Era

April 28, 2017 President Trump signs Executive Order 13795 to “encourage energy exploration and production” on the OCS. The Order directs Interior to reconsider the Offshore Air Quality Rule.

May 1, 2017 DOI Secretary Zinke issues Secretarial Order 3350 to direct BOEM and BSEE as to how to implement the president’s Executive Order. Among other directives, Zinke directs BOEM to cease all activities to promulgate the offshore air rule.

June 5, 2020 BOEM publishes a final rule adopting only a small number of changes from the initial proposal. Gutting the Obama-era proposal, BOEM argues that it does not have the authority under OCSLA to promulgate the regulations as proposed in 2016 and that they would unduly burden industry. The new rule’s modest changes do not reflect the significant revisions in the proposal that would have aligned BOEM rules more closely with EPA regulations, focusing instead on updating obsolete or irrelevant provisions that no longer reflect NAAQS standards and benchmarks.

Early Biden Actions

Jan. 20, 2021 President Biden signs EO 13990 that revokes Trump’s EO 13795 and directs all agencies to review and consider revising rules issued during the Trump administration.

Jan. 27, 2021 President Biden’s EO 14008 orders a review of the permitting and leasing practices for offshore oil and gas and pauses all new leasing during this time.