The deepwater drilling moratorium imposed because of the BP oil spill is being lifted. The moratorium, which had idled 33 drilling platforms, was originally supposed to last until November 30.
The BP oil spill began with an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 men on April 20. All attempts to staunch the gusher failed, until a cap was successfully deployed over the well on July 15. By that time roughly 4.4 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest offshore oil disaster in US history.
The end of the moratorium was hinted at this morning by White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs. That was followed by an email to reporters from the Interior Department announcing a 1:00 p.m. conference call to discuss the end of the deepwater drilling ban.
“I have decided that it is now appropriate to lift the suspension on deepwater drilling for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set,â€ Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said during today’s media conference call.
According to The New York Times, the Obama administration is lifting the moratorium following the imposition of new rules governing areas like well casing and cementing, blowout preventers, safety certification, emergency response and worker training. According to a Business Week report, Michael Bromwich, head of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said yesterday that the new rules have lessened the risks associated with drilling.
“We think things have advanced and we’ve raised the bar substantially and that drilling can now proceed more safely than it has in the past,” he said.
Despite the economic and environmental devastation the BP oil spill brought to the Gulf Coast, the moratorium angered many who complained that it cost jobs and hurt the economy further. Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, for example, has said she will block Senate action on the President’s nominee to lead the White House budget office until the moratorium is lifted, Business Week said.
Though the moratorium is now officially history, drilling is unlikely to resume quickly because of the need for more inspections and compliance with new regulations, the Interior Department said.