Ensco on Wednesday asked U.S. District Judge Marti Feldman to issue a preliminary injunction that would require the Interior Department to process five pending permit applications in which the company has a stake within 30 days, according to media reports.
The judge said he hopes to rule on that request later this month. Since the temporary ban on deepwater drilling was lifted in October, offshore operators have submitted 13 permit applications for drilling activities that were barred under the moratorium, but none have been approved.
The Justice Department has asked Feldman to dismiss Ensco's claims that the Obama administration has engaged in a "pattern and practice" of delaying the issuance of drilling permits.
Feldman struck down an initial ban on deepwater drilling by the Interior Department in June, saying the government was assuming that all deepwater rigs were dangerous because of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The Interior Department responded by imposing a second moratorium that its critics, including Ensco, claim was virtually identical to the first.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael R. Bromwich said today that the process of drilling permit applications and proposed drilling plans will not be delayed while additional reforms for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and other offshore areas are developed.
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