US ends offshore drilling ban but only if new rules are met

12 October 2010 19:02  [Source: ICIS news]

Offshore drilling ban liftedWASHINGTON (ICIS)--US Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said on Tuesday that he is lifting the moratorium on deepwater drilling in US waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but only for those energy companies that can meet the department’s new safety and environmental standards.

The deepwater drilling moratorium was imposed by Salazar in the wake of the 20 April explosion and fire that sank the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and triggered the worst US offshore oil spill in history.

Salazar said that with the new deepwater drilling rules issued by the department at the end of September, “we have made significant progress in reducing the risks in deepwater drilling”.

Consequently, he said, “I have decided it is appropriate to lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling for those operators able to clear the higher bar we have set”.

In addition, he said, “Before an operator can begin drilling in deep water, its CEO must certify that the company has complied with all of the new safety and environmental requirements”.

Salazar said that “some will say that we have set the bar too high”.

“But those are the same people who fought to lower government oversight of offshore drilling, and they want to return to the days of business as usual,” he said.

“But that is not an option,” Salazar said.

The deepwater drilling ban was scheduled to expire on 30 November.

US energy industry critics of the moratorium and other Interior Department restrictions on offshore drilling in any water depth have charged that Salazar has effectively imposed a de facto ban on Gulf energy development.

Salazar told a press conference that while there will always be risks involved in offshore drilling, “we have come to a point where those risks have been significantly reduced” by the new regulations put in place.

He said that as the US “transitions to a clean energy economy, we will still need oil and gas from the Gulf of Mexico”.

The new deepwater drilling regulations issued in late September mandate tougher requirements for drilling and rig workplace safety and greater commitments by energy companies to improve blowout preventer equipment and their ability to respond immediately and in force to any future spills.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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