The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it has plans to put an early end to the deepwater drilling ban that has been in place since the disasterous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
After putting new rules in place that were designed to make deepwater drilling safer, the White House feels that it is in position to lift the ban as early as this week.
[Update: 10/12/10 2 pm ET] The New York Times is now reporting that the drilling ban will be lifted immediately, although it will be weeks or even months before drilling operations can resume, because new permits must now be granted.
The moratorium put in place by president Obama months ago was slated to expire on November 30th.
Almost two weeks ago, the Interior Department issued new rules governing areas like well casing and cementing, blowout preventers, safety certification, emergency response and worker training (NY Times).
The White House has been the target of intense pressure from the oil industry and Gulf Coast officials and businesses that believe it has had a negative effect on the region’s economy.
When the moratorium went into affect, 33 deep-water rigs in the Gulf were forced to cease operation, affecting many jobs and angering the oil companies.
Residents and environmentalists shocked by the negative impact the Gulf oil spill has had on wildlife, seafood, businesses and tourism, have encouraged the government to keep the moratorium in place, and even advocate extending it to offshore drilling.
BP, which has been ordered to pay billions of dollars in claims and remediation efforts following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, threatened to stop paying claims if the drilling ban was extended.
While making the announcement, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs emphasized that the move would impose new safety measures on those seeking to drill exploratory wells. Those entities and the companies they represent will have to prove they have the appropriate steps in place to contain a worst-case scenario (AL.com).
Image Credit: Flickr - infrogmation