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NOIA 2013 Annual Meeting Review

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) held its 2013 Annual Meeting from April 17 to 19 at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., with more than 180 in attendance.

Prominent media representatives, authors, politicians and experts spoke on topics ranging from politics and economics to the offshore industry. Presenters and attendees discussed the implications of the 2012 elections, the recovering economy, offshore safety, the decommissioning of rigs, offshore technology in the Arctic, seismic testing in the Atlantic and offshore regulatory policy.

During the meeting, Stone Energy Corp. (Lafayette, Louisiana) was awarded the 2013 Safety in Seas Award, which is sponsored by Compass Publications Inc., the publisher of Sea Technology magazine.

General Speakers
Laura Ingraham. Political talk-radio commentator and New York Times best-selling author Laura Ingraham engaged NOIA members with a frank discussion of the 2012 elections. Ingraham viewed the dismal Republican results in 2012 as a move toward the center and away from the lessons learned in 2010 that led to conservative victories nationwide.

The Honorable Richard Lugar. Former Sen. Richard Lugar, the longest serving Congressional representative in Indiana history who held leadership posts on the Senate Agriculture and Foreign Relations Committees, spoke to the NOIA membership about his enduring support for the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty.

Lugar began making his case for U.S. accession to the treaty by pointing out that 161 countries have ratified it and that the treaty balances states' interests and freedom of the seas and navigation while also protecting the marine environment and promoting scientific research. The U.S., as a preeminent maritime power, ocean user and the largest Exclusive Economic Zone, has the most to gain in acceding to the treaty. Lugar said doing so would improve economic strength and resiliency through job-creating innovation and promoting job investment.

Zachary Karabell. A favorite of this year's meeting, Zachary Karabell, a political historian, economic analyst and award-winning author, delivered an optimistic message about the future of the domestic and global economies.

Karabell listed some of the most challenging historical events that transpired over the past 13 years, which have contributed to the employment struggle, the unpredictable housing market, Wall Street distresses and world-trade uncertainty. The country has persevered, however, despite obstacles, he said. He went on to advise that although the future is always uncertain, we must face change and challenges with guarded optimism.

Government Officials
Congressman Doc Hastings. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) represents Washington's fourth Congressional district and currently serves as the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Hastings's priorities include increasing American energy production, ensuring U.S. offshore drilling is the safest in the world and continuing to push for access to offshore energy production.

Hastings spoke about the continued fight for offshore access in the 87 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) that has been off-limits for decades. Hastings also spoke about what he saw was the need to halt the expansion of the Endangered Species Act to prevent it from blocking energy production on federal lands.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) serves Louisiana as the first woman elected to a full Senate term and is one of the leading Democrats in the Senate helping to ensure offshore energy in the United States. Landrieu currently serves as chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, and a member of the Energy and Natural Resources, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees.

A long-time NOIA supporter, she spoke about her introduction of revenue-sharing legislation with fellow Energy and Natural Resources Committee member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).The bill would allow oil-producing Gulf states to begin sharing an increased percentage of federal offshore royalties earlier than what current law allows (current law delays revenue sharing until 2017). She remains optimistic that additional OCS access may be achievable down the legislative road and asked her constituents in attendance to weigh in with their state legislators to oppose a bill that could effectively prevent Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act funds from being used to address Louisiana infrastructure needs.

Tommy Beaudreau. The director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Tommy Beaudreau, opened his speech by referencing the third anniversary of the Gulf oil spill and saying, 'We have not put the incident behind us, either for BOEM or industry.' Beaudreau said that in the three years since Macondo, much has been accomplished by industry and regulators to restore 'public confidence in industry's ability to explore and produce safely, as well as public confidence in government's ability to effectively and responsibly regulate the industry,' but there is still work to be done.

Beaudreau said he is bullish on the industry in the Gulf of Mexico because the first three lease sales in the current five-year plan garnered more than $3 billion total interest from bidders. He said the department is following through on its strategy to acquire modern seismic data for the mid- and south-Atlantic, which is 'extremely important to moving forward with exploration activities.'

Maureen 'Mo' Bornholdt. The Offshore Renewables Task Force sponsored a session featuring Maureen 'Mo' Bornholdt, Renewables Program manager for BOEM. Bornholdt delivered a detailed status update on the progress toward offshore renewable energy production, in particular offshore wind farms. She outlined the regulatory and leasing processes for renewables and pointed out similarities and contrasts with the regulatory and leasing processes for offshore oil and gas.

BOEM hopes to conduct the first commercial lease sale this year in the Rhode Island/Massachusetts wind energy area. The commercial leasing process will be similar to that for offshore oil and gas lease sales, except that the bids will be revealed, but not the bidders. A lease sale offshore Virginia will also take place in 2013.

James Watson. The Health, Safety, Security and Environment Committee sponsored a session featuring James Watson, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Watson shared two strategic goals. The first is to regulate, enforce and respond to OCS development using the full range of authorities, policies and tools to compel safety, emergency preparedness and environmental responsibility, and appropriate development and conservation of offshore oil and natural gas resources. The second is to build and sustain the organizational, technical and intellectual capacity within and across BSEE's key functions—capacity that keeps pace with industry's technological improvements, innovates in regulation and enforcement, and reduces risk through systemic assessment and regulatory and enforcement actions.

Idle-Iron Industry Panel
A panel featuring T.J. Broussard, Chief of BSEE's Environmental Enforcement Branch, Kevin O'Donovan of O'Donovan Strategies, Drew Hunger of Apache, and Dave Welch, chairman, president and CEO of Stone Energy, spoke on the need for a clear path to decommission rigs and maintain artificial habitats that have become vital to the Gulf of Mexico. The discussion focused on the requirements to participate in BSEE's Rigs to Reefs program and the complications that industry experiences in the decommissioning process.

Task Forces and Committees
PAC Advisory Committee. The PAC Advisory Committee meeting featured speaker John Rogers, the deputy political director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, which supports the election of Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Public Affairs and Education Committee (PAEC). The PAEC heard from Stephen Marino, chief financial officer of AgencyQ, on crisis response via the social web. Marino handled the Macondo social media efforts for BP plc (London, England) and spoke of the importance for industry to be proactive rather than reactive.

Geological and Geophysical (G&G) Task Force. The G&G Task Force brought together approximately 30 NOIA members to hear a report from International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) Vice President Walt Rosenbusch on the state of seismic testing and the push for collecting data off the mid-Atlantic.

Technology Policy Committee. Under the chairmanship of Kevin McEvoy of Oceaneering (Houston, Texas), the Technology Policy Committee met in a working session to map out a plan for the coming year. The committee seeks to highlight cutting-edge offshore technologies and educate regulators about the latest developments. Past areas of focus have included seismic technologies, smart well management, advanced drilling techniques and decommissioning.

With so much focus on the Arctic and the path forward for development in that region, the topic of discussion was whether to organize a series of educational sessions for regulators around technologies specific to the Arctic.

Safety in Seas Award Presentation
Stone Energy Corp. was the recipient of the 2013 Safety in Seas Award and was recognized for innovative safety leadership in pioneering a new decommissioning method.

Made possible through the use of a new Montco Inc. (Galliano, Louisiana) 335-foot self-elevating lift-boat, this new method departs from the traditional approach of performing decommissioning work steps sequentially to performing them concurrently. The new method was applied during Stone's 2012 Gulf of Mexico-wide decommissioning campaign. This resulted in a four-fold increase in the volume of decommissioning work completed by Stone during 2012 with zero Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordable incidents.

Stone's innovative decommissioning process exemplifies the safety commitment, risk assessment and mitigation, and collaboration with regulators in all phases of offshore energy development that is critical to the long-term success of the offshore oil and gas industry.

Stone Energy was selected by a panel of judges from the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Academy of Science's Transportation Research Board and BSEE. For more, click here.

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