US Govt: New Gulf Drilling Regulations May Be Ready before Oct. 30

HOUSTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Sep. 7, 2010

The U.S. Department of the Interior could decide before the end of October to modify the duration of a moratorium imposed on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the massive oil spill there, an official of the government agency overseeing offshore drilling said Tuesday.

"We are working very hard to assimilate the massive amount of information we have … but we expect to finish that before Oct. 30," Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement told reporters on the sidelines of a public meeting on offshore drilling. "It could be well before that," he said.

The federal government suspended exploratory drilling in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico after a rig, leased by BP, exploded and sank in late April, unleashing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The moratorium, which the government said was necessary to ensure implementation by oil and gas companies of adequate safety measures to reduce risks associated with deep water drilling, is in effect until Nov. 30. But the oil industry and states whose economies depend in part on drilling in the Gulf have been pressing the government to lift the moratorium before that date.

Since July, Bromwich has been conducting a series of public meetings in different cities to collect information and views to decide whether the drilling ban could be lifted before the end of November. The deadline to deliver the results of those meetings is Oct. 30.

Bromwich said the report the Bureau will deliver to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will include only some information from the investigations being conducted on the causes of the "Macondo" spill. The government won't wait to have the full report of those investigations to issue the new regulations for drilling in the Gulf, he said.

The government expects the new rules to be adopted quickly by oil and gas companies as many of them have already started to implement changes, he added.

Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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