Obama Admin Bucks Federal Judge, Issues New Offshore Drilling Moratorium (UPDATED)
Oil spill cleanup vehicle photo: US Coast Guard via flickr
Coming through a variety of sources all through the afternoon, not the least of which is the AP talking to Obama administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity, is word that a new offshore oil drilling moratorium will be issued--a little more than two weeks after a Louisiana judge struck down a previous ban on the grounds that the harm caused to jobs was too great. This time, the details have been tweaked as follows:First of all, the new moratorium will not be based on depth of drilling and will apply to "any deep-water floating facility with drilling activities" (News-Press.com)
The new ban will be in effect until as late as November 30th, 2010, or "until such earlier time that the Secretary determines that deepwater drilling operations can proceed safely."
According to an Interior Department statement, "The new suspensions are supported by an extensive record of existing and new information indicating that allowing the deepwater operations that will be suspended wold pose a threat of serious, irreparable, or immediate harm or damage to the marine, coastal, and human environment."
Many Rigs Still Able to Operate
The usual suspects were quick to respond. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) said in a press statement, "Before these few dozen rigs can be pushed back into service, we need to know that it is safe, that the oil companies finally take their response responsibilities seriously. Until then, we must first compensate the workers from these rigs and allow new safety measures to be put into place."
Markey also pointed out, "97 percent of the manned rigs in the Gulf will still be allowed to work."
Long-Term Oil Reduction Plan Needed
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune highlighted further steps that need to be taken, "A moratorium on new deepwater drilling addresses the immediate risk to the Gulf Coast, but we also need a long-term plan to prevent further oil disasters. We need President Obama to chart a course that will end America's oil dependence in the next twenty years."
UPDATE: Official Dept of Interior Statement Issued
Late this afternoon, the Department of Interior issued a press statement on the new drilling ban. Here's an excerpt:
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today directed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) to issue new suspensions of deepwater drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), saying a pause is needed to ensure that oil and gas companies first implement adequate safety measures to reduce the risks associated with deepwater drilling operations and are prepared for blowouts and oil spills.
Shallow water drilling activities that use different technologies do not present the same type or level of risks as deepwater drilling operations and can continue to move forward if operators are in compliance with all safety and environmental requirements, including new safety and environmental requirements implemented through recent Notices to Lessees. Production activities in federal waters of the Gulf are not affected by the deepwater drilling suspensions.
In a decision memorandum to BOEM Director Michael R. Bromwich, Salazar said that a temporary pause on deepwater drilling will provide time to implement recent safety reforms and for:
1. The submission of evidence by operators demonstrating that they have the ability to respond effectively to a potential oil spill in the Gulf, given the unprecedented commitment of available oil spill response resources that are now being dedicated to the BP oil spill;
2. The assessment of wild well intervention and blowout containment resources to determine the strategies and methods by which they can be made more readily available should another blowout occur; and
3. The collection and analysis of key evidence regarding the potential causes of the April 20, 2010 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, including information collected by the Presidential Commission and other investigations.
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