New drilling moratorium issued as first drilling rig leaves gulf

a set of oil drilling bits on a pallet

A new drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico was issued by the Obama administration Monday after a previous one was overturned in a federal court. Wikimedia Commons photo.

A new drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico was  issued Monday by the Obama administration. Last month a federal court judge, citing oil drilling jobs, overturned the first deep water drilling moratorium. Interior secretary Ken Salazar vowed to come back with another one courts would accept. The first deep water drilling moratorium singled out drilling for oil at depths of 500 feet or more. The new drilling moratorium disregards depth and focuses on drilling scenarios and technologies. Meanwhile, the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico  has dumped an estimated 140 million gallons of crude into the sea.

New drilling moratorium applies to all depths

Last week, a federal appeals court rejected an appeal by the interior department to restore its initial offshore deep-water drilling moratorium, which halted the approval of any new permits for deep-water projects and suspended drilling on 33 exploratory wells. The Washington Post reports that Salazar made the announcement Monday, arguing that a drilling moratorium is still needed to ensure that oil and gas companies implement safety measures to reduce risks – and are prepared to handle oil spills. Unlike the first moratorium, which applied to drilling rigs in waters of more than 500 feet, the new one applies to any deep-water floating facility with drilling activities.

Oil drilling jobs at risk

The new moratorium will last through Nov. 30. Some permits might be allowed before then if drillers prove safety measures have been taken. Meanwhile, a New Orleans business group said the economic damage from a drilling moratorium would be worse than the toll taken by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010. Business Week reports that Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc. told the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and Offshore Drilling at a hearing that the six-month drilling ban may affect as many as 24,000 oil drilling jobs in Louisiana. Hecht said that the economic impact from the BP oil spill would be dwarfed by the impact from the moratorium.

Oil drilling companies can’t be trusted

Salazar disagrees with Hecht’s assessment of the outcome. In a statement Salazar said “A pause on deepwater drilling is essential and appropriate to protect communities, coasts, and wildlife from the risks that deep water drilling currently pose. I am basing my decision on evidence that grows every day of the industry’s inability in the deep water to contain a catastrophic blowout, respond to an oil spill and to operate safely.”

First drilling rig leaves the gulf

At the national commission hearing, the CEO of a service provider for offshore drillers said drilling rigs will leave the Gulf because of the drilling moratorium. At least one has proven him right so far. The Houston Chronicle reports that on July 9 Diamond Offshore announced that its Ocean Endeavor drilling rig will leave the Gulf of Mexico and move to Egyptian waters immediately — making it the first to abandon the gulf in the wake of the BP oil spill and the drilling moratorium being tested in the courts.

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