Obama lifts deepwater drilling ban

by Derrick Johnson on October 13, 2010

The Obama Administration has lifted a moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico a few weeks before scheduled. However, it will be awhile before actual drilling resumes due to new government regulations.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the news saying "we're back in business," reports the Washington Post. The Administration was reportedly under pressure from Gulf Coast lawmakers concerned for job losses in the area and the oil industry.

The moratorium was imposed after BP's oil spill in the Gulf in order to allow regulators time to revamp regulations and safety equipment. It was scheduled to expire November 30.

Salazar told the Kansas City News that an early lift was possible since BP capped its oil leak during the summer, and that "there will always be risks associated with deepwater drilling, but we have now reached the point where we have, in my view, reduced those risks."

The added regulations, issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, will require offshore operators to demonstrate their compliance with tougher rules before granting them permits. The New York Times estimated that the cost of the new rules to the deepwater industry will reach $183 million a year.

Environmental groups expressed their disappointment with the announcement, calling it premature and citing risks associated with an early lift on the ban."The big hit in this region has not been to the oil and gas industry, they're making billions of dollars," Oliver Houck, a law professor at Tulane, told NPR. "The big hit is to the fishing industry that has a big chance of not coming back, it is a cultural loss, not just an economic loss."

Energy companies and lawmakers in the South applauded the lift. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana said the moratorium lift was good news and overdue, according to CNN.com.

Bayoubuzz Louisiana News reported that at least 20,000 jobs were lost as a result of the moratorium.

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