Offshore Oil and Gas:

Inspection of Outer Continental Shelf Facilities

RCED-86-5: Published: Dec 31, 1985. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1986.

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In response to congressional requests, GAO obtained information on: (1) the scope of the Minerals Management Service's (MMS) and the Coast Guard's inspection responsibilities for offshore oil and gas activities; (2) the nature and timeliness of the government's offshore safety and environmental inspections; and (3) the extent and timeliness of follow-up efforts.

GAO found that: (1) both agencies are required to perform annual scheduled and periodic unannounced inspections of all offshore facilities subject to safety and environmental regulations; (2) during fiscal year (FY) 1983, MMS inspected 94 percent of the offshore drilling sites and 96 percent of the offshore production facilities; (3) only the Pacific MMS region routinely conducted periodic unannounced inspections; (4) the Gulf of Mexico region cited about 3 times the number of violations per production inspection as the Pacific region and 10 times more drilling violations per inspection; (5) differences in the frequency of inspections among the regions were due to differences in the relative workloads, resources, and public opinion; (6) MMS has recently improved its inspection program; (7) MMS shut down more facilities in the Gulf region than in the Pacific region because the equipment had been in service longer and failed more often; (8) in FY 1983, the Coast Guard inspected 69 percent of the production facilities and 96 percent of the mobile offshore drilling units, citing approximately one violation per production inspection and three violations per drilling inspection; (9) the Coast Guard did not have enough resources in the Gulf to inspect all facilities; (10) both MMS and the Coast Guard relied on operators' notifications that violations had been corrected; and (11) although MMS instituted 54 civil penalty cases which resulted in about $1.1 million in fines from 1980 through December 1982, it has not assessed any civil penalties since 1983.

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