Drilling ban lifted, effects to lingerOct 19th, 2010 | By Frank McCormack | Category: news
Five months after President Barack Obama’s administration imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Tuesday announced that government regulators are ready to again give the oil industry the green light to drill.
The six-month moratorium, originally set to end Nov. 30, was issued in the weeks after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 and triggering the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Just under 5 million barrels of oil is estimated to have escaped from BP’s runaway well into Gulf waters.
The Obama administration for weeks had been under heavy pressure – both internal and external – to lift the ban prior to the Nov. 30 deadline. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, speaking to reporters Oct. 12, though, said government and environmental leaders had merely finished their work to retool the permitting process for drilling earlier than expected.
“This was part of a very deliberative policy process that, quite frankly, just got done more quickly than the original timeline,” Gibbs said.
New guidelines for deepwater drilling will impose stricter blowout preventer and well cementing standards and hold company CEOs more accountable for well failures. However, those improved standards may make the permitting process take much longer than in years past.
Though Michael Bromwich, who heads the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, said he hopes to see drilling resume by the beginning of 2011, many experts have said resuming drilling could take close to a year in most cases.
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, soon after the moratorium’s end was announced, expressed hope that the stricter drilling regulation will not prevent the parish’s industry-based business from gaining momentum as the oil spill response winds down.
“We’ve seen a slowdown in all services related to the oil field since this moratorium was put in place,” Nungesser said. “The timing is right. As the oil spill cleanup slows down, all the businesses that support the industry need to return to work. Lifting the moratorium could be the catalyst we need to get all the oil industry businesses kick started, putting people back to work and seeing this industry come back alive.”