WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday lifted the moratorium on deepwater exploratory oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico — provided companies follow new safety rules.
“Operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume”, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a news conference.
“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,” he added.
The industry as well as many lawmakers had pressured the Interior Department to lift the ban, which was imposed shortly after the BP disaster, on grounds it has cost jobs and damaged the economy. The moratorium had been set to expire Nov. 30.
The ban did not stop oil production, just the drilling of exploratory wells for eventual production.
The administration in recent weeks has imposed new rules to make offshore drilling safer, and the Interior Department said Tuesday that companies will have to prove they have the appropriate steps in place to contain a worst-case spill scenario.
Each operator will have to have containment resources available in the event of a blowout like the Deepwater Horizon accident that sent more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.