The classification of the constituents of a chaos, nothing less is here essayed.
-Herman Melville, Moby Dick
As previously reported on Striding the Quarterdeck, the post-Macondo overhaul of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the scope and substance of its regulatory reach resulted in the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE, the MMS’s successor agency) asserting unprecedented civil penalty jurisdiction over offshore contractors, after decades of espousing the policy and practice of enforcing such penalties solely against lease holders and operators. Now, after years of industry uncertainty, seemingly contradictory and confused policy statements (official and informal), and despite the lack of any actual rulemaking in this area to date, the veritable “chaos” around this issue has been “essayed” and determined by the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA, the final administrative appellate body within the Department of the Interior within which BSEE is situated) in a landmark administrative opinion determining once and for all – pending further potential judicial review in the federal courts – that BSEE has unfettered jurisdiction to assess civil penalties against any contractors performing work on the Outer Continental Shelf. See Island Operating Co., 186 I.B.L.A. 199 (Oct. 5, 2015). (more…)