Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today announced a new set of safety and spill response regulations for offshore drilling operators. The rules are a response to the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon well in April, and do not come as a surprise to the oil and gas industry. Companies have been anxious for the official announcement so that they can plan future drilling operations with more clarity.
Salazar was careful, however, when addressing the deepwater drilling moratorium the Obama Administration put in place after the spill. The moratorium has sparked virulent protest from Gulf state representatives; Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu has resorted to blocking the appointment of White House budget director Jack Lew until Obama and Salazar agree to end or significantly alter the moratorium.
The New York Times' John Broder reports:
"We will lift it at our own time and when we're ready, and not based on political pressure from anyone," Mr. Salazar said.
The moratorium on deepwater drilling, imposed in late April, is scheduled to end on Nov. 30, but officials have signaled that it would probably be eased before then. ...
Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the Interior Department office that now polices offshore drilling, is to deliver a report to Mr. Salazar on Thursday providing a blueprint for safely resuming drilling. Mr. Salazar said he would review the report before making any decision on when that might happen.
Mr. Bromwich indicated earlier this week that even after the formal moratorium is lifted, it may be weeks or even months before his agency grants permits allowing the 33 idled deepwater rigs in the gulf to start up again. Permits will be issued only after companies provide new spill response plans detailed certification of the performance of critical equipment such as blowout preventers.
Read the full story at the New York Times.