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Offshore drilling ban: Will revised moratorium appease courts?

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This time the administration also is not citing a six-month time period, but is leaving the door open to an earlier resumption if it sees fit. This, too, was seen by analysts as less about flexibility and more about deflecting legal challenges.

“More than 80 days into the BP oil spill, a pause on deepwater drilling is essential and appropriate to protect communities, coasts, and wildlife from the risks that deepwater drilling currently pose,” said Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, in a statement. “I am basing my decision on evidence that grows every day of the industry’s inability in the deepwater to contain a catastrophic blowout, respond to an oil spill, and to operate safely.”

The new pause on deepwater drilling, the department said, would give time for:

  • Evidence to be submitted by operators that demonstrate they have the ability to respond effectively to a potential oil spill in the Gulf, especially in light of the "unprecedented commitment of available oil spill response resources that are now being dedicated to the BP oil spill."
  • Assessment of "wild well intervention and blowout containment resources" to determine strategies to make those resources swiftly available if another blowout were to occur.
  • Collect and analyze evidence data on the potential causes of the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, including input from the presidential commission and congressional investigations.

In the new moratorium, the administration is much more specific about the threat. The suspension is needed because of "an extensive record of existing and new information indicating that allowing new deepwater drilling to commence would pose a threat of serious, irreparable, or immediate harm or damage to the marine, coastal, and human environment."

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