The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

More Rules Mean More Delays

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted August 17, 2010

The Department of the Interior yesterday announced new deepwater drilling requirements that could further delay offshore development and job creation.

The Interior Department says it will require more extensive environmental reviews for deepwater projects, including limiting the use of "categorical exclusions" which eliminate the need to conduct an environmental analysis for every deepwater well. These exclusions make sense for wells being drilled in the same or similar formations where the environmental conditions and risks were identical, and for which extensive environmental analyses already have been conducted.

Further, categorical exclusions are an important and recognized tool that are utilized for approval of federal projects across to the nation, from Department of Defense projects to housing developments. They eliminate the need for redundant reviews of federal actions, so that agency resources can be effectively managed and directed.

In a statement, API's Upstream Director Erik Milito said Interior's changes could add "to the department's workload, stretching the timeline for approval of important energy development projects with no clear return in environmental protection."

Erik added that the existing review process is extensive. "We're in favor of targeted changes to regulations that enhance safety and environmental protection, provided the changes allow for the efficient moving forward of energy development and job creation."

In the Gulf today, BP is not moving forward in completing the relief well. The federal government has asked for further analysis on the possible risks of the bottom kill procedure. The drilling rig is standing by and ready to intercept the Macondo's wellbore when directed.

The damaged well has been shut-in since July 15.