The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Mr. Salazar, Lift the Moratorium

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted September 29, 2010

Tomorrow, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to lay out the administration's energy strategy--including its stance on deepwater offshore drilling--in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Observers say it's likely that Sec. Salazar will announce a new interim final rule codifying many of the new offshore requirements aimed at increasing safety and improving environmental practices.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon accident in April, the administration ordered the immediate inspection of the 33 deepwater drilling rigs, all of which passed; it launched investigations into the cause of the Deepwater Horizon accident; it reorganized the former Minerals Management Service into three separate agencies to better define its roles in leasing offshore development blocks, collecting revenues, and overseeing offshore energy operations; and it issued a total of three Notices to Lessees, advising drilling operators of new safety and environmental practices and temporarily halting deepwater drilling. The new practices include the re-certification of blowout preventers (BOPs), new casing and cementing design requirements, and improved response plans.

The oil and natural gas industry also took actions to prevent a similar accident from occurring in the future. It formed four task forces to examine offshore operations and recommend improvements in technology, well control, safety and environmental performance. It reported the task forces' findings to the presidential commission investigating the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and to the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Furthermore, a consortium of integrated oil companies announced plans to engineer and build a containment device capable of responding to well blowouts in depths of up to 10,000 feet.

Much has been accomplished. The leaking Macondo well has been killed, and scientists say the vast majority of the oil has been cleaned up or has dissipated. Gulf Coast fishing is returning to normal, a massive fund has been created to pay for damages, and BP has pledged to continue working on cleanup efforts.

While the progress does not negate the impact of the Gulf well blowout, it does call into question the administration's adherence to the de facto ban on offshore oil and natural gas development. As we've stated before, the moratorium is not promoting safety. Rather it is threatening thousands of jobs, preventing drillers from finding new supplies of oil and natural gas to fuel the nation in the future, and jeopardizing U.S. energy security.

The administration should lift the moratorium and speed the permitting process by providing clear guidance to drillers seeking to comply with the new offshore requirements. The United States cannot afford to delay domestic energy production or risk additional layoffs in the oil patch. It's time to put the oil and natural gas industry back to work to retain and create jobs and produce reliable American energy for Americans.