Deepwater Drilling Ban Could End Soon

The deepwater drilling ban in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico may end well in advance of its Nov. 30 expiration date, the Washington Post quoted Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) Michael Bromwich as saying on Aug. 3.

Bromwich will hold a series of eight public forums, the first of which will be held today in New Orleans. The eight hearings, announced last month, public meetings to collect information and views about deepwater drilling safety reforms, blowout containment, and oil spill response. Bromwich will be soliciting input from the general public, state and local leaders, and experts from academia, the environmental community, and the oil and gas industry. The other meetings will take place along the Gulf Coast and in Anchorage, Alaska.

The hearings will determine "whether we can develop a level of comfort on all three issues that would enable the [interior] secretary to lift the moratorium in a principled way" before Nov. 30.

Bromwich also outlined plans to create an assertive federal agency that will police offshore drilling around the U.S. The Washington Post reported that Bromwich had asked the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to lend him prosecutors and agents, respectively, and he is hiring from the private sector to staff investigations and review units of eight to 10 people that will explore allegations of wrongdoing within the agency and the drilling industry.

BOEM also is drafting new recusal rules for its employees to establish an arm's length relationship between regulators and those they oversee. BOEM also is looking at rules to enhance blowout preventers and other safety devices.

The deepwater drilling ban established a temporary pause of deepwater drilling in order to address issues related to drilling, blowout containment, and oil spill response, including to allow time to collect additional information regarding these issues through public outreach and ongoing investigations into the Deepwater Horizon incident.

The suspensions are set to last until Nov. 30, 2010, or until such earlier time that the Secretary determines that deepwater drilling operations can proceed safely.


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