The U.S. offshore drilling agency will begin conducting surprise inspections on oil rigs as part of a new aggressive enforcement effort adopted by the Obama administration since the BP oil spill, the agency’s head said on Thursday. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, formerly known as the Minerals Management Service, had stopped performing unannounced rig inspections recently because of concerns about national security. But the head of the bureau, Michael Bromwich, said he saw no legitimate reason to let oil companies know about planned inspections as much as two days in advance.
The department will provide companies some notice about inspections but not a full day ahead of the inspection, Bromwich said. An investigative team formed by Bromwich within the agency will also help spearhead the agency’s efforts to forcefully go after oil companies that violate the law. The bureau has also imposed stringent new safety rules aimed at preventing another drilling accident like the one at BP’s Macondo well, pouring millions of barrels of oil into Gulf of Mexico. The department canceled planned lease sales off the coast of Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico following the BP accident.