Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Obama Admin Approves 1st Deep-water Gulf Drilling Plan
The Interior Department approved Shell's environmental assessment of the specific site, clearing an important regulatory hurdle. In the past, Interior had granted drilling permits in the Gulf without requiring environmental studies for the specific projects. The department discontinued issuing these "categorical exclusions" in August 2010 as part of a broader overhaul of offshore-drilling regulation in the aftermath of the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Currently, 13 similar exploration plans are pending before Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE).
After the explosion at the BP PLC-leased Deepwater Horizon, Interior imposed a moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf and required operators to meet more stringent safety standards. It lifted the moratorium in October, 2010, but the department has faced criticism for limiting deep-water permit approvals to three sites where operators had already been drilling before the moratorium. By contrast, the Shell plan approved Monday would tap new wells. (WSJ, 3/22/2011)