The Obama administration this week lifted a stop on deep-water oil-drilling operations, succumbing to pressure from oil companies and their Gulf state supporters.
The administration imposed the ban in April in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The ban was set to expire at the end of November, but on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was pushing the date up because new regulations had reduced the chances of their being another disastrous blowout like the one that caused the BP spill.
Oil industry leaders hesitated to say the ban was truly lifted until they got more details on the administration’s new rules.
“The policy position that we are articulating today is that we are open for business,” Salazar said.
However, even with the temporary ban now lifted, drilling will not start up again for several weeks as companies work to meet new safety requirements. One sure rule requires the chief executive at company responsible for an oil well to sign off saying it has met safety regulations, thus making the head of the company responsible for future oil spills.
“Operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume,” Salazar said.
The BP spill on April 20 began after a rig explosion that killed 11 people and sent around 200 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf, killing wildlife and devastating coastal communities who relied on the water to support industries like fishing and tourism. BP has estimated it will pay $32 million or more for cleanup efforts and damage claims.