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Lawmakers challenge decision to freeze oil drilling

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-10

US lawmakers fear that the lengthy drilling ban decided by President Barack Obama after the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could cost the already battered Gulf coast states thousands of jobs.

REUTERS - U.S. lawmakers grilled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday about his department's six-month ban on deepwater drilling, which they said may cost the battered Gulf of Mexico region thousands of jobs.

 
Salazar told lawmakers at a Senate hearing that the ban on exploratory drilling at depths of more than 500 feet could be lifted sooner depending on the findings of the presidential commission investigating the cause of the U.S. Gulf oil spill.
 
But he left open the possibility that the ban could be extended if the commission deemed necessary.
 
A lengthy drilling ban could cost the already battered Gulf coast states thousands of jobs. Salazar said the government would hold BP responsible for any such job losses, creating even more liability issues for the company.
 
"BP is responsible for all damages that result from the BP oil spill. These are some of the consequences from that oil spill," he said.
 
Last month, the Obama administration halted exploratory drilling at depths of more than 500 feet (150 metres) and implemented more stringent safety rules in response to the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent oil spill.
 
Lawmakers at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing pushed back on these decisions, arguing they would hurt Gulf state economies dependent on the oil industry.
 
"It could potentially wreak economic havoc on this region that exceeds the havoc wreaked by the spill itself," said Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana.
 
Landrieu cited a letter she received from eight experts who advised the department on its new safety recommendations but do not support the moratorium. She said the ban could affect 330,000 jobs in Louisiana alone.
 
Salazar defended the administration's response, but said it was possible the ban could be lifted in less than half a year. He said the administration has to make sure that operations are safe and that there will never be a repeat of the massive oil spill.
 
"If it can be done before six months, then there's a possibility we could take a look at it before then," Salazar told lawmakers.
 
But he said it would be "unwise" to move forward with deepwater drilling before recommendations from the presidential commission.
 
BP Plc's underwater well is still gushing thousands of barrels of oil per day into the Gulf.

 

Date created : 2010-06-10

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