Regulations & Standards

For all those working on offshore oil and gas facilities, safety and environmental protection is the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE’s) highest priority. No issue is too small or too great. A change in industry standards or practices, an incident or frequently required administrative action may warrant a change in the Bureau’s regulations or policies. New regulatory safeguards to improve safety or protect the environment can heighten drilling safety standards and help reduce the chances of a loss of well control, as well as, add focus on new technologies, tools, containment capabilities, processes and procedures in the event of an oil spill.

Under the Statutory Authority of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331-1356a, BSEE executes its responsibilities and mission. Its regulations promote safety, protect the environment, and conserve resources. BSEE’s regulatory programs include developing and implementing regulations and rules, such as the Well Control Rule and Arctic Rule. Additionally, BSEE issues regulatory interpretations, guidance and assessments of industry and international standards for potential use in its regulations.

However, the Bureau's operations are governed by a wide variety of laws, regulations, and Executive Orders and are often informed by communications with the offshore industry. The Bureau enforces compliance with these regulations and periodically updates the rules to reflect advancements in technology and new information.

Regulatory Interpretations

BSEE is responsible for developing, implementing, and enforcing regulations concerning oil, gas, and sulphur exploration, development, and production operations on the Outer Continental Shelf. BSEE also reviews and approves oil spill response plans submitted by owners and operators of offshore facilities and undertakes periodic inspections of oil spill response equipment.

BSEE regularly receives requests to interpret or provide guidance concerning its regulations. This web page contains BSEE’s responses to requests for interpretations of its regulations. A regulatory interpretation provides BSEE’s understanding of the meaning of a regulation. BSEE will review each request it receives and determine whether it presents an issue appropriate for interpretation and is of sufficient public interest to merit publishing a response.  BSEE typically will not respond to questions regarding individual, fact-specific circumstances or the basis for promulgating a specific regulation. However, to the extent that BSEE finalizes a regulatory interpretation in response to a request, BSEE typically will publish both the request and BSEE’s response on this webpage. If a request for a regulatory interpretation poses a question not relevant to the cited regulation, BSEE will notify the requester that a response will not be issued.

See BSEE's regulatory interpretations for more information. In the rare instances in which BSEE may change its interpretation of a regulation, it will explain the change on this web page.

To request an interpretation of a BSEE regulation, please submit your request by email to

Not all questions and responses will be published on