Deepwater drilling ban ends
The Obama administration on Tuesday lifted its ban on deepwater drilling seven weeks ahead of schedule, saying new rules cut the risk of a repeat of the BP oil spill, the worst ever to hit the United States.
Restarting deepwater drilling could be slow, however, as oil companies will need to comply with the new regulatory regime and demonstrate they can adequately respond to blowouts before drilling can resume, the Interior Department 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,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
The Obama administration is lifting the controversial drilling ban as his Democrats prepare for a tough mid-term election in November, amid concerns over the economy and unemployment.
The ban drew sharp protests from Gulf of Mexico lawmakers and a court challenge from companies that complained the moratorium cost jobs and stalled an industry with a relatively good record.
While the reopening of the prized, deep Gulf waters will be good news for drillers such as Transocean Ltd and explorers like Royal Dutch Shell, analysts warn it will take months or years to return to the pace of activity prior to the Macondo disaster on April 20.