October 12th, 2010
01:20 PM ET

Obama administration lifts deepwater drilling moratorium

The Obama administration is lifting the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling that was put in place after the Gulf oil disaster, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday.

Salazar and the new head of the government agency overseeing offshore drilling, Michael Bromwich, were scheduled to hold a 1 p.m.
news conference on the issue.

Salazar suspended certain deepwater drilling activities on July 12 under the premise that certain deepwater drilling posed a threat to the marine, coastal, and human environment.

Since then, Salazar has determined that deepwater oil and gas drilling can resume provided that operators certify compliance with all existing rules and requirements, including those that recently went into effect, the Department of Interior said in a press release.

Members of industry must also demonstrate the availability of adequate blowout containment resources, the department said.

“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," Salazar said. 

" 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.”

Salazar reached the decision after reviewing a report by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich and considering other information on the progress of offshore oil and gas safety reforms, availability of spill response resources, and improved blowout containment capabilities, the agency said.

In his decision today, Secretary Salazar directs BOEM to require the following before approving deepwater drilling: 

- Members of industry must be subject to written and enforceable obligations that ensure containment resources are immediately available in the event of a deepwater blowout, regardless of the company or operator involved.  The Department of the Interior has a process underway regarding the establishment of a mechanism relating to the availability of blowout containment resources, and Secretary Salazar said he expects that this mechanism will be implemented in the near future. 

- The CEO of each operator seeking to perform deepwater drilling certify to BOEM that the operator has complied with all regulations, including the new drilling safety rules.

Read the full story on CNN.com.

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