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Gulf oil spill: New drilling moratorium issued

July 12, 2010 | 11:50 am

Update, 3 p.m.: The Obama administration is issuing a new moratorium on deep-water offshore drilling and it's no longer based on water depth.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement Monday, arguing that a pause is still needed to ensure that oil and gas companies implement safety measures to reduce risks — and are prepared to handle spills.

The new moratorium will last through Nov. 30. Unlike the last moratorium, which applied to waters of more than 500 feet, the new one applies to any deep-water floating facility with drilling activities. - Associated Press


Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar is expected to reveal details of a new moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico that would pass the scrutiny of the federal court, which threw out an earlier temporary halt in exploratory wells in waters deeper than 500 feet, an administration source said Monday.

Since a federal district court last month threw out the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on exploratory wells in the deep Gulf, Salazar has vowed to reissue orders halting those activities, even as the administration continues to appeal the judge's order overturning the ban.

On Friday, during a visit to California, the secretary stood by the old moratorium.

"The moratorium we issued on May 28, in my view, was right then and is right today. I think it's very legally defensible. I think that the lower court was wrong," Salazar said on a visit to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

"We will move forward and in the coming days announce a new moratorium decision. It will be within the next week," he added.

On Thursday, a federal appeals court refused to put a stay on the lower-court ruling that overturned the moratorium. The appeal of that order continues.

Salazar said the new moratorium decision will incorporate data gathered in recent weeks.

"All the different work … we have been overseeing and been involved in has given us new information on the inadequacy of the ability to contain the ongoing spill at the site of the well, the difficulties in having an oil spill response plan that is effective at protecting ecological values," he said.

-- Rich Simon in Washington


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