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Jun 3, 2010 7:44 PM by Letitia Walker

UPDATE-Salazar Denies Administration Was Blocking Shallow Offshore Drilling

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is blocking all new
offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, a day after regulators
approved a new permit for drilling in shallow water.
An e-mail Thursday from the Gulf Coast office of the Minerals
Management Service says that "until further notice" no new
drilling is being allowed in the Gulf, no matter the water depth. A
copy of the e-mail was obtained by The Associated Press.
The announcement comes a day after the minerals agency, which
oversees offshore drilling, granted a new drilling permit for a
site about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, 115 feet below the
ocean surface. Environmental groups accused the administration of
misleading the public by allowing work to resume in waters up to
500 feet deep while maintaining a moratorium on deepwater drilling.
Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar, denied that the administration was placing a hold on
shallow-water drilling.
"There is a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling,"
Barkoff said in an e-mail Thursday. "Shallow-water drilling may
continue as long as oil and gas operations satisfy the
environmental and safety requirements Secretary Salazar outlined in
his report to the president and have exploration plans that meet
those requirements. There is no moratorium on shallow water
drilling."
Bob Abbey, the acting director of the Minerals Management
Service, announced further restrictions for offshore drilling on
Wednesday night.
Abbey, who took over the minerals agency last week after the
forced resignation of its previous director Elizabeth Birnbaum,
said operators will be required to submit additional information
about potential risks and safety considerations before being
allowed to drill. The rule applies even to those plans that have
already been approved or received a waiver exempting them from
detailed environmental scrutiny, Abbey said.
The new information must be submitted before any drilling of new
wells begins, Abbey said, adding that the rule should ensure that
tighter safety standards and better consideration of risks are
incorporated into drilling plans.
The administration will establish separate requirements for deep
water and shallow water exploration, Abbey said.
In a recent letter, Gulf Coast senators urged President Barack
Obama to allow shallow-water drilling to continue, arguing that it
is far safer than deepwater exploration. The senators said shutting
down the roughly 60 shallow-water rigs in the Gulf could cost some
$135 million in revenues and affect at least 5,000 jobs.
-----------------------------------------

The Obama administration is blocking all new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, a day after regulators approved a new permit for drilling in shallow water.

The Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, says in an e-mail from its Gulf Coast office that "until further notice" no new drilling is being allowed in the Gulf, "no matter the water depth." A copy of the e-mail was obtained by The Associated Press.

The announcement comes a day after the MMS granted a new drilling permit for a site about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, 115 feet below the ocean surface. Environmental groups said the administration was misleading the public by allowing work to resume in waters up to 500 feet deep while maintaining a moratorium on deepwater drilling.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060302738.html

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