US plans Mariner briefing as group seeks shallow-water drilling ban

03 September 2010 19:01  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The president of Mariner Energy is to appear before Congress next week to explain the fire on its Gulf of Mexico production rig, and an environmental group on Friday urged a complete ban on shallow water drilling.

In a letter to Mariner Energy president Scott Josey, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman asked that Josey come to Washington before the end of next week to brief the committee on what caused the accident on Mariner’s Vermilion 380 platform.

The production rig was operating in 340 feet of water about 100 miles off the Louisiana coast when a fire erupted on Thursday morning, according to US Coast Guard officials.

The 13 crewmembers abandoned the rig by jumping overboard but were soon rescued with only one minor injury and no loss of life among them.

Josey was asked to appear before the full House Energy and Commerce Committee and also to brief that panel’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

Waxman has been a strong advocate for energy and production control measures.

He was a principal sponsor for the major climate bill approved by the House last year that would impose increasing limits on US use of hydrocarbon energy sources. Waxman also is cosponsor of a pending bill that would give federal security agencies authority to force feedstock, process or product changes at major US chemical facilities.

Separately, in an appeal circulated on Friday, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) called on the Obama administration to extend its existing moratorium on US deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to all shallow water operations as well.

“Rather than lifting the moratorium on deepwater drilling, the Obama administration needs to step in now and expand it to any new drilling in shallow waters,” said Peter Galvin, the centre’s conservation director.

“Offshore drilling is an inherently unsafe, toxic activity that every day puts people and the environment at risk,” Galvin said.

The centre said that the Mariner Energy platform accident on Thursday was “only the latest in a string of incidents in recent decades illustrating the dangers of offshore drilling in shallow waters”.

The group cited a 2007 report by the US Department of Interior (DOI) that most well blowouts have occurred in Gulf waters of less than 500 feet in depth.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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