This paper reports on the progress made in 1972 by the Geological Survey's management program of the Gulf of Mexico OCS leases. During 1972 more stringent OCS Orders were issued; and new Orders or revisions are now in preparation with the full cooperation of OCS lessees and operators committees. More systematic supervision and more comprehensive inspection procedures are now utilized. Further improvements of the safety and pollution control of the offshore operations are being considered. Some of the innovations in the program are: hazards analyses, failure-reporting and corrective-action systems, information exchange, safety and antipollution motivation programs, and better identification of research and development needs. The training of operators and Government personnel is proceeding so as to keep pace with new requirements.
As a result of these efforts, the likelihood of oil pollution incidents in the Outer Continental Shelf lease operations should be significantly reduced.
The evolution of the petroleum industry and the concurrent emergence of conservation laws and regulations over the past 50 years have been of great significance. From the highly individualistic oil producers of a few decades ago has emerged a major industry and technology. Now it is comprehensively and constructively regulated so as to permit an efficient exploration and the development and recovery of the Nation's oil and gas reserves, while protecting the environment and the rights of others. In retrospect, the early oilman by today's standards seems wasteful, but it must be remembered that knowledge was meager as to the causes of waste and the remedies therefor. Despite its relatively short life span, the petroleum industry has a remarkable record of rapid development of technology and its widespread use.
Government has the responsibility to establish reasonable regulations and standards that assure safe, clean operations; while also giving proper consideration to technical feasibility and lead times. The burden of proving that petroleum operations can be carried on safely rests mainly with the petroleum industry. Government and industry have a joint responsibility to avoid that OCS operations are improperly conducted or that the nature of those operations be misunderstood, so that public consent is not withheld. The public needs to know that not only a satisfactory technologic capability exists for safely carrying out difficult and potentially dangerous operations, but also it needs to be assured that adequate regulatory and supervisory capabilities exist to see that operations will indeed be conducted safely. Each operator must have an earnest desire to conduct his activities properly, which often is more effective than regulations or enforcement procedures. Nevertheless, considering the important values at stake, the protection of the public interest should not depend on good intentions alone. The U. S. Geological Survey is the organization that bears' the responsibility for seeing that offshore petroleum exploration and production are conducted properly.