Feds lift drilling ban — but don’t expect new wells soon


The Obama administration today lifted its deep-water drilling ban more than a month ahead of its scheduled expiration date, ending a moratorium that has idled dozens of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and launching a long process to restart offshore exploration in the region.

“We have made and continue to make significant progress in reducing the risk associated with deep-water drilling,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a conference call with reporters. “It is now appropriate to lift the suspension of deep-water drilling for those operators who are able to clear the higher bar that we have set.”

“We are open for business,” Salazar added. “We will be taking applications for drilling in the deep water, and we will be processing those applications under the road map . . . created over the last six months.”

Oil and gas industry officials welcomed the news, but described the lifting of the moratorium as mostly symbolic because it could be weeks or months before the government grants permits for new deep-water wells.

“There is a difference between lifting the moratorium and securing the drilling permits needed to return to work,” said Shell spokesman Kelly Op De Weegh. “It’s imperative to ensure agencies have the capacity to process the backlog of drilling permits in a timely manner and consistent with the new safety rules.”

Administration officials have widely acknowledged there will be delays as drilling contractors comply with new drilling rules, energy companies submit new well proposals and government inspectors vet their applications.

Michael Bromwich, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said he shifted 20 employees to process new drilling applications, adding to a staff of about 40 that were on the job before the Deepwater Horizon disaster. But some delays are inevitable, he said.

Bromwich outlined the lengthy process to restart deep-water drilling at the Platts Energy Podium this morning:

“You’re going to need at least a couple of weeks, maybe more, for the companies to review the rules and satisfy themselves that they have met their rules. We’re going to need to do inspections on all the rigs before we are going to be able to give the go-ahead for deep-water drilling to resume. And it will take some time for us to review the applications.”

Administration officials declined to predict the exact timing that new drilling could be approved, with Bromwich saying that no one knows how prepared companies are to comply with new safety rules — much less satisfy regulators.

The issuance of new deep-water drilling permits “will clearly not be tomorrow, and it’s not going to be next week,” Bromwich said. “How far in the future it will go … I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. My sense is that we will have permits approved before the end of the year, but how much before the end of the year I can’t say and how many permits I can’t say.”

Since President Barack Obama first announced he would halt deep-water exploration on May 27, the administration has faced intense political pressure to end the ban, especially from lawmakers along the Gulf Coast who said it jeopardized thousands of jobs tied to the industry. Drilling contractors also challenged the moratorium in federal court.

Salazar acknowledged the moratorium’s economic costs today, but defended the ban as the right decision in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The time out allowed investigations of what went wrong at BP’s Macondo well and the development of newly announced rules designed to step up the safety of offshore drilling.

With its announcement today, the Obama administration is walking a political tightrope — seeking to assuage Gulf Coast voters and officials that deep-water exploration can resume while trying not to alienate environmentalists and offshore drilling foes three weeks before the Nov. 2 elections.

“I know some people will not be completely satisfied with today’s decision,” Salazar said. “Some will say that the new rules for offshore drilling are too onerous, or the bar is too high. . . . Others will say we are lifting the deep-water drilling suspension too soon.”

“The truth is, there will always be risks associated with deep-water drilling, he added, “. . . but we now have, in my view, sufficiently reduced those risks.”

Read reactions to the ban on FuelFix:

Jennifer Dlouhy

23 Responses

  1. chiefdecoy says:

    Roofing Contractor Bob
    October 13, 2010, 6:40 AM

    This is good news for the Texas economy. Even with all the political comments and naysayers about the Dems, etc. we need forward progress and need a positive attitude. This is good news and many companies can start staffing up and buying materials again. Good for the economy.
    Like Stat Oil, who already stated that they have no intentions of returning to the GOM until Spring, or later?
    There will be no “buying of materials”, etc., until the permits start rolling out. They only lifted the ban on deep water drilling. Not the ban on permits…..

  2. Roger Willco says:

    Here are a few of the ‘old rules’ that are rather obviously not being enforced in the BP MACONDO mass murder, fraud and ecological Armageddon.

    18 USC 00201 Bribery of public officials and witnesses

    18 USC 00007 Special Maritime/Territorial Jurisdiction of US
    18 USC 00113 Assaults within maritime and territorial jurisdictions

    18 USC 01111 Murders
    18 USC 01112 Manslaughter

    21USC 00963 Attempt and conspiracy
    18 USC 00371 Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US

  3. Roger Willco says:

    The Kenya Native, Ken Salazar and Eric Holder have not enforced ANY of the existing rules, regulations or laws against the individual criminals at BP and the federal MMS.

    It is cowardly and immoral to issue ‘new rules’, while refusing to enforce the ‘old rules. There are more than sufficient offshore drilling rules. What is lacking is the courage and personal integrity to enforce them. Jail the malefactors at BP and the MMS.

    Therefore WE most certainly SPIT upon your ‘new rules’!

  4. Roger Willco says:

    My, my … What a sorry episode of government incompetence and corruption! BP bribed Obama and the Federal Minerals Management Services. The entire federal government then ‘turned a blind eye’ to a disastrously inadequate well design, grossly negligent safety precautions and moronic well completion practices.
    None of the industry best practices were employed. None of the contractor recommendations were implemented. Caution was thrown to the wind. BP notoriously stated, “That’s the way it is going to be”.
    The result was a mass homicide, $50B in damages and an ecological Armegeddon. The initial deadly explosion was then exacerbated by deliberately ‘sinking the ship’, thereby releasing the oil into the Gulf. .
    Then, adding insult to injury; the moratorium affected only the prudent operators. BP the architect of this disaster; and only BP continued to drill in the Gulf.

  5. This is good news for the Texas economy. Even with all the political comments and naysayers about the Dems, etc. we need forward progress and need a positive attitude. This is good news and many companies can start staffing up and buying materials again. Good for the economy.

  6. Bersa380 says:

    Election time is getting close.

  7. GusRumpf says:

    It is unconscionable that Congress has allowed the most incompetent presidential pretender in history to perpetrate this oil drilling holocaust on the American oil industry, oil industry employees, and the American people. THIS IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!


    Americans demand to see that there are NO unnecessary paperwork, regulations, or rhetorical bullcrap put in the path of FULL RESTORATION OF ALL SHALLOW AND DEEP WATER DRILLING OPERATIONS.


  8. Art Vandeley says:

    What is the catch? President Hussein has lied to his supporters and the opposition alike. The only constituents he HAS come through for are the rich elitist special interest groups and far, far left progressive billionaires.

  9. chiefdecoy says:

    Problem with your little tirade is that the “oil giants” are still, and always will be filthy rich. the one’s getting it “stick it to”, are those that work for the suppliers, support, etc,,,,(without lube, mind you)
    In other words, the little guy…..
    And not all of those are Republicans. Just so you know. I work with numerous Democrats. Who, coincidentally, are just as furious with Obama over this situation. There is a reason Mary Landrieu (D) Louisiana, is very vocal about getting the drillers going again. Her constituents, Democrat and Republicans alike, depend on the oil industry.
    Not that you would give a crap about anyone else’ situation, “as long as you stick it to those oil company’s and Republicans”……
    Keep it up, and your gonna have it stuck to Mrs. Landrieu as well as the majority of the residents of Louisiana who work for, or dependent upon the oil industry.

  10. harr1234 says:

    Yes I agree with the delays and more scrutiny on these oil giants. They can afford to wait a few more months to get their equipment inspected and get their permits finalized. Finally, our government is doing what it is suppose to be doing. Regulating.

    Thats a bad word for Republicans and Tea Party Radicals.
    The prefer the word deregulation which got us where we are today. Oil companies spilling oil everywhere and Wall Street bankrupting the country.
    Yea Obama you stick it to these filthy rich oil companies and republicans and tea party radicals. We will see you at the polls in november.
    Vote Democrat.

  11. Indian paintbrush says:

    WOW! They lifted it a month early , just before the Nov. elections. Coincidence? I think not.
    This political ploy won’t work.

  12. Winski says:

    One of the more idiotic things done so far by Salazar… More earth-altering hazards just waiting to happen… lunacy.

  13. almostdallas says:

    Big deal. Billy Nungesser should go on a hunger strike until the first permit gets issued – kill 2 birds with one stone. I’ll join him. Starting tomorrow.

  14. James Kingsmill says:

    Too much – too little – too late. Tell the Dems to start cleaning out their office and you might want to start looking for real estate back in Ill.

  15. Trail Trash says:

    Yeah, yeah. The Drilling Ban is over just like the War of Terror and the Recession is over.

  16. bitter says:

    Must be close to an election.

  17. chiefdecoy says:

    Well, when is Salazar and Captain Chaos going to stop punishing the ENTIRE FREAKING INDUSTRY?
    When you cease issuing drilling permits, you don’t actually NEED an official “moratorium” on shelf drilling. There have been 5 or 6 drilling permits issued for ANY DEPTH for many months now. President Obama,,,,,please explain…..
    I am in Morgan City, La RIGHT NOW babysitting one of our many stacked vessels. I am looking around me at an endless graveyard of boats, barges, workover rigs, jackup rigs, etc.
    Please feed the gullible American public more of your LIES and misdirection! I was extremely upset yesterday, watching an entire crew march off of a vessel secured next to ours. Knowing the suffering and worry that them and their families would be going through.
    The worry of when that same hammer is going to come crashing down on me and my family. I pray for the removal of every last Democrat, and Republican politician that has been residing in their respective seats. They have really made a mess out of things. And above all,,,,I can not wait to get a chance to vote in more “hope and change” in 2012. This current President can rot in Hades forevermore for all I care. Lying, corrupt, piece of trash! Makes George Bush look like a Boy Scout.

  18. Bill in Houston says:

    We’ll remember this come Election Day, Dems!

  19. Geo says:

    Trying to get vote for the Demo, too late obama you lose!!!!

    Obama cost thousands of jobs with this stupid move!!!

  20. 2Twisted says:

    He’s so full of …it– remember, this is an election year & the Democrats(to their suprise) are down. Obama, Reid and Pelosi are in trouble and are attempting to make a difference for the Senate & Congressional elections, plain & simple. All Talk!


  21. Hotline_Harry says:

    yes we can, yes we can, yes we can! Vote obama and all his crazy loonies out of office ASAP.

  22. justbob says:

    ain’t it great, china will be drilling for gas in texas before our own companies will be able to go back to work in the gulf.
    but not to worry, the freeze ONLY cost the region 12,000-19,000 jobs. chump change according to the white house when 6,000,000 people are already out of work.

  23. Adler says:

    Seeing as how they didn’t have any legal or Constitutional authority to impose the ban in the 1st place, lifting the ban is inconsequential until the 1st rig spuds a new well. The damage has been done, and this purely political move announced with a large mound of cow patties. You can bet Obama will start crowing about lifting the ban while campaigning.

    Just remember to boot all the Obama Congressional sycophants on NOV 2nd.