U.S. Government Issues a Revised Drilling Ban

Offshore oil rig
Offshore oil rig

The Obama administration issued a revised moratorium on offshore drilling Monday that's no longer based on drilling depth. The new edict supersedes a previous ban that called for a blanket offshore deepwater drilling moratorium, putting on ice any new permits for drilling projects and suspending work on an estimated 33 exploratory wells.

That six-month ban was thrown out by a federal district court, with the judge saying that it was a hasty decision. An appeals court upheld the lower court's decision. Given those rulings, the industry expected this new ban.

The new moratorium came from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who said it will "protect communities, coasts, and wildlife as oil and gas companies implement adequate safety measures to reduce the risks associated with deepwater drilling operations and to ensure they are prepared for blowouts and oil spills."

The revised ban applies to all deepwater floating facilities, not those drilling in shallow water. It will remain in effect until Nov. 30, or until the Interior Department can ensure that the industry can operate safely. The administration is attempting to take strong steps to prevent future catastrophes after BP Gulf Coast oil spill.

"This moratorium will reduce oil spill risk while the Gulf will continue to produce oil," said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Energy panel's subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. "As new laws and safety measures are put into place on these few dozen rigs, 97% of the manned rigs in the Gulf will still be allowed to work. The only thing worse than one rig at the bottom of the Gulf would be two."

Originally published