Deepwater Drilling: Offshore Oil Progress Delayed Under "Slowmatorium"

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Just over a year ago, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon accident, the future of offshore oil exploration looked bleak. With the nation fixated on video of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama quickly instituted a six-month deepwater drilling moratorium. Obama lifted the moratorium last October; however, many claim that the moratorium has not gone away, but was replaced by a de facto moratorium, colorfully called the "permitorium" or "slowmatorium." While the Obama Administration no longer blocks all deepwater drilling permits, new permits are still rare.

The Administration denies that it is purposefully delaying the issuance of deepwater drilling permits. Instead, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement ("BOEMRE"), Michael Bromwich, claims the delays result from the enforcement of new strict environmental and safety rules. These new rules have sent companies scrambling to comply, while at the same time attempting to anticipate what new rules are coming. Critics also claim that BOEMRE is taking too long to issue permits. According to Bromwich, the delays "may be frustrating to some in the industry, but the additional rules and heightened scrutiny are completely appropriate and in the best interests of the nation."

With gas prices hovering around $4 per gallon and 30% of the United State's domestic oil production coming from offshore sites, many political leaders have began to question the wisdom of further delays. Congressman Darrell Issa, believes that because of "President Obama's ban and subsequent 'permitorium' against all drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, American production has dropped, and our country's energy needs have become increasingly dependent on foreign governments . . . ."

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Published In: Elections & Politics Updates, Energy & Utilities Updates, Environmental Updates, Zoning, Planning & Land Use Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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