Deep water drilling ban lifted

U.S. Navy photo by Patrick Nichols

The Obama Administration on Tuesday lifted a moratorium on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, six months after instituting the prohibition.

“There has been significant progress over the last few months in enhancing the safety of future drilling operations, and in addressing some of the weaknesses in spill containment and oil spill response,” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement Director Michael R. Bromwich said in a news release.

While federal officials say a number of improvements have been made since BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April, more are needed, they contend. Companies are facing enhanced federal scrutiny and must now abide by a number of new regulations.

“We have more work to do in our reform agenda, but at this point we believe the strengthened safety measures we have implemented, along with improved spill response and blowout containment capabilities, have reduced risks to a point where operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a news release. “The oil and gas industry will be operating under tighter rules, stronger oversight, and in a regulatory environment that will remain dynamic as we continue to build on the reforms we have already implemented.”

However, U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., contends the “drilling moratorium epitomizes how out-of-touch Democrats have become to the needs of American families.”

“The moratorium was a choice made by a liberal elite in Washington – in opposition to the recommendations of the White House’s own panel of experts – to unilaterally destroy jobs even while acknowledging the pain they might be causing hard working Americans,” Price said in a news release. “It defies common sense as to why it has taken them this long to reverse this reckless decision.”

Still, federal authorities vowed to continue working to improve deepwater drilling safety.

“More needs to be done – and more will be done to continuously improve the safety of deepwater drilling and to bolster the ability of the government and industry to respond in the case of a major blowout,” Bromwich said. “But we believe the risks of deepwater drilling have been reduced sufficiently to allow drilling under existing and new regulations.”

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