US Issues Fresh Moratorium on Offshore Drilling

Washington, July 13 (DPA) The US government Monday issued a revised ban on deepwater oil drilling that could allow operations to resume if companies demonstrate they do so safely.

The revised ban, aimed at preventing another explosion like the April 20 BP well rupture in the Gulf of Mexico, also lifted prior restrictions based on depth.

US Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar issued a revision of a disputed May 27 moratorium that had been aimed at enacting a six-month freeze on offshore deepwater drilling.

A New Orleans judge shot down the May 27 moratorium in June, ruling it was too far reaching. A three-judge federal appeals panel has rejected the government request to suspend that decision pending the outcome of the appeal.

The newest moratorium brought cries of protest from the American Petroleum Institute, which warned it would cost jobs and "weaken our nations energy security." It said 33 deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are sitting idle even though they have passed government inspections.

The Interior Department's latest decision also could allow operations to resume in water deeper than 150 metres below the ocean's surface if firms show they have better procedures and could respond adequately if another accident happens.

Shallow water operations could continue because they use different safer technology, the department said.

"More than eighty days into the BP oil spill, a pause on deepwater drilling is essential and appropriate to protect communities, coasts, and wildlife from the risks that deepwater drilling currently pose," Salazar said in a statement.

"I am basing my decision on evidence that grows every day of the industry's inability in the deepwater to contain a catastrophic blowout, respond to an oil spill, and to operate safely," he said.

BP, which was leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig, has only been able to contain part of the oil leak. On Monday, they were making another attempt to plug the leak and capture more of the outflow.

The British firm has been under heavy criticism in the United States as the spill reached US shores and wreaked havoc with wildlife.

APIs President and CEO Jack Gerard said the new moratorium would cause "enormous harm to the nation and to the Gulf region."


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