New drilling moratorium not based on depth

Now applies to any deep-water floating facility with drilling activities


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Frederic J. Frommer
July 13, 2010 12:11AM (UTC)

The Obama administration's new moratorium on deep-water offshore drilling will no longer be based on water depth.

Instead, the moratorium will apply to any deep-water floating facility with drilling activities. The original moratorium applied to those in waters of more than 500 feet.

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Those new restrictions were spelled out in an Interior Department Q&A obtained Monday by The Associated Press. An official announcement is expected later Monday.

Last week, a federal appeals court rejected the government's effort to restore its initial offshore deep-water drilling moratorium, which halted the approval of any new permits for deep-water projects and suspended drilling on the 33 exploratory wells.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will issue a new revised moratorium on offshore drilling Monday, two administration officials told The Associated Press.

Both officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly ahead of the official announcement.

Last week, a federal appeals court rejected the government's effort to restore its initial offshore deep-water drilling moratorium, which halted the approval of any new permits for deep-water projects and suspended drilling on 33 exploratory wells. That moratorium, issued following the catastrophic Gulf oil spill in April, was first rejected last month by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman.

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"If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?" Feldman asked. "Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing."

He said the moratorium "seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet (152 meters) also universally present an imminent danger."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at the time that he would issue a new deep-water drilling moratorium that could be refined to reflect offshore conditions and allow drilling in areas where reserves and risks are known rather than in exploratory reservoirs.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday that the Interior Department "will take into account what the judge laid out in his initial ruling at the district court level."

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"The president has and continues to believe that we have to be careful with what we're doing, given the uncertainty about what happened 84 days ago," Gibbs said. "We know that that is not without some economic consequences to the region, but it's imperative that we have a sense of what happened before we continue to do this again."

In its appeal, the Interior Department asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to let the temporary ban stand until it ruled on the merits of the case.

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore rigs argued that the moratorium was arbitrarily imposed following the April 20 explosion, which killed 11 workers and blew out a well 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) under water.

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Frederic J. Frommer

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Gulf Oil Spill

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