Lessons from the North Sea: Should 'Safety Cases' Come to America?

29 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2011 Last revised: 9 Mar 2012

Rena I. Steinzor

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; Center for Progressive Reform

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

The catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last spring and summer has triggered an intense search for more effective regulatory methods that would prevent such disasters. The new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is under pressure to adopt the British “safety case” system, which requires the preparation of a facility-specific plan that is typically several hundred pages long. This system is supposed to inculcate a “safety culture” within companies that operate offshore in the British portion of the North Sea because it overcomes a “box-ticking” mentality and constitutes “bottom up” implementation of safety measures. Safety cases are strictly confidential: only company officials, regulators and, in limited circumstances, worker representatives, are allowed to see the entire plan. This Article argues that the safety case approach should not come to America because this confidentiality, as well as the levels of risk tolerated by the British system, conflict with the both the spirit and the letter of American law. American regulators also lack the resources necessary to make a safety case regime minimally successful.

Keywords: gulf spill, offshore oil production, regulation, self-regulation, health and safety, environment, administrative law, North Sea, safety case, box ticking, National Commission on the BP Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

JEL Classification: G38, H00, H11, I18, J28, K23, K32, L50

Suggested Citation

Steinzor, Rena I., Lessons from the North Sea: Should 'Safety Cases' Come to America? (2011). Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, Vol. 38, p. 417-444, 2011; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-3. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1735537

Rena I. Steinzor (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

Center for Progressive Reform ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
United States

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