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Obama Administration Decides To Lift Moratorium On Deep-Water Oil Drilling

A drilling platform is seen near the site where the Deepwater Horizon oil platform sank.
A drilling platform is seen near the site where the Deepwater Horizon oil platform sank.

In April, when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama implemented a one-month moratorium on certain types of offshore oil drilling. In May, it was extended to six months.

The official end date for the suspension was supposed to be Nov. 30. But in light of new rules, the Obama administration has decided to lift the ban early.

"We have made and continue to make significant progress in reducing the risks associated with deep-water drilling," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar told reporters today.

I have decided that it is now appropriate to lift the suspension on deep-water drilling for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set.

"This is something that the industry has wanted for a long time," NPR's Jeff Brady explains.

Obviously, the Gulf of Mexico is a place where a lot of the country's oil and gas comes from, and they want to get back to work after being stalled because of the Deepwater Horizon accident.

This morning, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated the Obama administration was planning to lift the moratorium:

"The process is coming to its natural end," he told reporters. "I believe the process will wrap up very soon."

According to NPR's Ari Shapiro, "White House officials have always said they would allow drilling to begin earlier than Nov. 30, if they become confident that oil companies have a strategy to contain and clean up future spills."

Earlier this afternoon, Salazar and Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) Michael R. Bromwich convened a teleconference with reporters, "to discuss the current suspensions on deepwater drilling."

According to Brady, "just recently, Bromwich submitted a report to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that detailed some of the things that have been done to improve safety and protections for the environment in the Gulf of Mexico, and those things that have been done, new rules put in pace, satisfied Salazar that the bar had been raised enough on the industry that it was safe to go back to work in the Gulf of Mexico.".

Gibbs said the government and the American people need to have confidence that, if another spill happens, the oil companies have resources in place to deal with it.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.
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