On 11 January 2011, the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, announced that there would be an increase in the annual number of offshore environmental inspections carried out by DECC’s Offshore Environmental Unit from 80 to 150.

The number of inspections was increased from 60 to 80 in June last year following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The recent increase to 150 inspections is to be facilitated by the appointment of 15 new offshore environmental oil and gas inspectors. The increased costs associated with these appointments are to be recouped through fees charged to the industry, although the details have not yet been revealed.

The increase in inspectors will enable DECC to carry out annual inspections of all manned fi xed installations and around 24 drilling rigs. It will also allow two inspectors to visit deepwater and more complex projects, rather than one.

DECC’s announcement comes only days after the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee published its report on UK Deepwater Drilling, recommending that a number of improvements be made to safety standards and regimes in the UK, despite the UK’s current “high regulatory standards”.

Commenting on the reasons behind his decision to increase the number of inspectors and inspections, Mr Huhne stated “The UK’s safety and environmental regime is one of the most robust in the world. But we are not complacent and more environmental inspections should provide further assurance that Government and industry are alert and working hard to ensure that a spill like Macondo doesn’t happen in UK waters.”

Mr Huhne also revealed that DECC will be leading a comprehensive review into the UK’s offshore oil and gas regime in collaboration with the Health and Safety Executive, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and other independent experts. The review, which is due to commence following a thorough analysis of the fi ndings of the US Presidential Commission Reports into the Macondo oil spill, will be based on the life cycle of an offshore development.

To view our Law Now article on the recommendations made in the Report, please go to: www.law-now.com/DirectMail/%7BFD4B9D1F-121E-4D4FA6B1-2315AAA8D876%D_ commonscommjan2011.htm