The Dept. of Interior on Oct. 12 lifted a July 12 moratorium on deepwater drilling for offshore operators that can comply with new and existing offshore regulations and demonstrate the availability of adequate blowout containment resources.
“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,” said Interior Dept. Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday. Deepwater drilling was banned following the April 20 explosion on BP’s Mancondo well that left 11 dead and millions of gallons of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.
The offshore industry greeted the announcement with skepticism, saying that until the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management begins issuing permits for deepwater activity, the moratorium remains “de facto.”
“The Interior Dept. today referred to the Œdynamic’ nature of future regulations in an effort to show they would adapt as circumstances warrant. That sounds good. In reality, however, it introduces another level of uncertainty to a regulatory process that has come to be less predictable than in many under-developed nations around the globe. When billions of dollars of investment are at stake, a Œdynamic’ regulatory process could be as dangerous to future offshore energy development as an outright ban,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association in a statement issued Tuesday.
Salazar said he based his decision to lift the deepwater moratorium on information gathered in recent months, including an Oct. 1 report from BOEM Director Michael Bromwich that shows significant progress in reforms to drilling and workplace safety regulations and standards, and increased availability of oil spill response resources.
Bromwich said that before deepwater drilling will resume, BOEM intends to conduct inspections of each deepwater drilling operation for compliance with regulations, including but not limited to the testing of blowout preventers.
Salazar said he expects the Dept. of Interior and BOEM will consider additional safety measures � including a redundant blind shear rams on BOPs, remote activation systems for BOPs, and enhanced instrumentation and sensors on BOPs.