Senators: Lift Moratorium on New Shallow Drilling

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., urged the Obama Administration to exclude shallow water platforms from its moratorium on issuing new offshore drilling permits. The Department of the Interior's (DOI) moratorium will remain in place until the conclusion of the investigation into the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Landrieu was joined on the letter by Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

"Platforms operating in shallow water, as defined by the Minerals Management Service, present different challenges than deepwater operations," the Senators wrote in the letter. "For example, shallow water facilities typically employ 'blow-out preventers' (BOPs) above the surface of the water. These surface BOPs are accessible for constant inspection, maintenance and repair, and, in emergencies, can be controlled either remotely or by physical manipulation. Also, shallow water drilling sites predominantly involve natural gas resources with less environmental risks, and these wells are drilled in predictable and mature reservoirs."

According to the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), if the moratorium is extended through the end of June, lost revenue from shallow water drilling is estimated at $135 million.

"Shallow water operations produce much-needed domestic energy resources that benefit the entire country," the Senators wrote. "There are approximately 57 shallow water rigs currently operating in the Gulf of Mexico. We are advised that if the moratorium is not soon lifted for these shallow water operations, as many as 50 of those rigs within the next six weeks will be unable to work and at least 5,000 jobs from the rigs alone will be lost in the Gulf Coast region."

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