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Gulf oil spill: Reaction to lifting of drilling moratorium is mixed [Updated]

October 12, 2010 | 11:51 am

Deepwater fire

Reaction to the Obama administration's move to lift the 4-month-old moratorium on deep-water drilling was swift Tuesday.

The American Petroleum Institute welcomed the move but asked for swift approval of permits:

While we are pleased that the Interior Department has lifted the deepwater moratorium, even more needs to be done to get American workers back on the job of exploring for, developing and producing the oil and natural gas to fuel our nation’s economy.

Without additional resources and a serious commitment by the government to process and approve permits and other requirements expeditiously, the moratorium will give way to a de facto moratorium, which will continue to cripple the already hard-hit Gulf region and cost more than 175,000 American jobs a year.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who has led hearings into the disaster, said much needs to be done to ensure such an accident will not recur. But, in a written statement, he backed the resumption under new regulations:

This deepwater drilling suspension was always about keeping the Gulf workers and waters safe from another oil spill, and it has been effective in doing so. The new rules that the Interior Department has issued will help ensure that if oil companies are going to drill ultra-deep, they are doing so in a manner that is ultra-safe.

Greenpeace, however, was bluntly critical of the move:

This is pure politics of the most cynical kind. It is all about the election season, not safety and environmental concerns. The White House wants us to believe that they have solved all the dangers of offshore drilling and we can return to business as usual. It is a false promise, if not a big lie.

Scientists haven't even assessed the full ecological impact of the BP disaster and yet the government is in a rush to allow oil companies to get back to drilling. It is irresponsible to say the least, reckless at worst.

[Update 12 p.m.: Natural Resources Defense Council executive director Peter Lehner said the moratorium should have remained while investigations continue:

“Today’s actions are premature. The difficult clean-up process in the Gulf has taught us prevention is key. To ensure a disaster like this never happens again, we must know what caused it in the first place.  We’re still waiting for that answer and until we get it – the moratorium should remain in place." ]  

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said companies looking to drill in waters more than 500 feet deep will face a tougher regulatory regime.

“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 said.

Michael Bromwich, director of the agency that oversees offshore drilling, said it would likely take weeks before drilling will resume.

The moratorium, which affected 33 deep-water projects, was put in place May 27, five weeks after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 people and unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

More on the decision is available at

-- Geoff Mohan

Photo: The crippled Deepwater Horizon drilling rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico in April. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard