A federal department is looking to expedite the deepwater moratorium lift for 13 companies whose drilling activities were suspended last year by the Obama administration following the BP (NYSE:BP) rig explosion that sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) said on Monday that it notified companies that they may be able to resume previously-approved activities without needing to submit revised exploration or development plans, though they do have to comply with BOEMRE's new policies and regulations.
The move comes on the heels of rising criticism over the pace of drilling activities in the Gulf. The administration lifted the moratorium in October, but has been slow to approve projects in the region.
The bureau’s director, Michael R. Bromwich, said BOEMRE is substantially enhancing its environmental review and analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act. But as it moves forward, he said, it is taking into account the “special circumstances” of the companies whose operations were interrupted by the moratorium.
“For those companies that were in the midst of operations at the time of the deepwater suspensions, today's notification is a significant step toward resuming their permitted activity,” Bromwich said.
Companies include ATP Oil & Gas (NASDAQ:ATPG), BHP Billiton Petroleum (NYSE:BHP), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), Cobalt International Energy (NYSE:CIE), Hess (NYSE:HES), Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas (NYSE:KMG), Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO), Murphy (NYSE:MUR), Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL), Statoil (NYSE:STO), and Walter Oil & Gas (NYSE:WLT). All but one closed higher on Monday.
While operators will not be required to revise their previously submitted exploration and development plans, if the worst-case discharge estimated for the project exceeds the worst-case discharge estimated by the company in its oil spill response plan, further reviews will be conducted, the agency said.