05/14/2020 - Regulatory Rollback

BOEM Offshore Air Quality Rule

by EELP Staff

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 and, 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.

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.

Current Status

President Trump ordered the Department of Interior to reconsider the rule in his April 28, 2017 Executive Order 13795 and Interior Secretary Zinke then ordered the department to stop work on the rule in his May 1, 2017 Secretarial Order 3350. As a result, the rule was never finalized.


April 5, 2016 The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) / DOI proposes an offshore air quality rule.

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.