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Gulf oil spill: Interior secretary extends drill freeze to Arctic

May 6, 2010 |  3:07 pm

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Thursday that his department would not issue new drilling permits until investigators determine the causes of the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico. That review is due to President Obama by May 28.

The decision is not a moratorium – drilling will continue on existing platforms offshore – but it effectively freezes new drilling in the gulf and in the Arctic Ocean, where Shell is poised to begin drilling this summer. Salazar could still approve the Arctic permit in time for that drilling to begin as scheduled.

[Updated 4:19 p.m. Salazar’s decision could prolong the waiting game for Shell as it prepares to move ahead with Arctic drilling in July. The drilling cannot proceed without the permit, which Salazar could still grant after the spill investigation ends, or which he could deny, citing environmental risks.]

--Jim Tankersley

Photo: Oil drapes the Chandeleur island chain Wednesday. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times