Drilling Moratorium, Take Two

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After its first attempt to impose a moratorium on new deepwater drilling lost in federal court last month and then on an appeal last week, the Obama administration took another stab at blocking new drilling Tuesday.

The administration’s latest moratorium would allow some operations to continue—if drillers can certify that there are adequate plans in place to control a well, that the blowout preventer on the well is functioning properly, and that the company has the “ability to respond effectively to a potential oil spill.”

The administration’s first moratorium shut down 33 exploratory drilling operations in the deepwater. In practice, the new moratorium would likely keep those operations on hold for now; federal regulators have until the end of August to come up with new guidelines that will clarify what companies will have to do to get the green light. The Department of Interior’s statements today indicated that they expect most operations will remain on hold through the end of November, the original expiration date for the moratorium. “Like the deepwater drilling moratorium lifted by the District Court on June 22, the deepwater drilling suspensions ordered today apply to most deepwater drilling activities and could last through Nov. 30,” the agency said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicated that he believes the continued moratorium is necessary to ensure that the there are no repeats of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “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,” said Salazar in a statement.

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