June 23, 2010
New drilling moratorium may be less sweeping
The new deepwater drilling moratorium on which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is working could be slightly less restrictive than the blanket ban struck down Tuesday. But the new moratorium order could be a while in coming.
Art a hearing of a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee today, Secretary Salazar noted that the blowout preventer of the Deepwater Horizon well, meaning that "we are not going to have a critical evidence" until "after we get this well killed."
That is unlikely to happen until at least August, when the first of two relief wells is completed.
Under questioning by Senator Linda Murkowski (R-Alaska), Secretary Salazar said he is considering a distinction between the drilling of appraisal wells and other deepwater exploration.
"We will in the weeks and months ahead take a look at how it is that the moratorium in place might be refined," Secretary Salazar said. "It might be that there are demarcations that can be made based on reservoirs, when we actually do know the pressures and the risks associated with that versus those reservoirs which are exploratory in nature where you don't know as a company what it is that you are drilling in."
At the same hearing, Michael Bromwich, head of the newly-named Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (the former Minerals Management Service) said he would create a new internal investigations unit to look into allegations of misconduct by federal employees and energy companies.
"My two-and-a-half days on the job have showed me there is not that kind of investigative capability in my organization, and I think it is vital to create it," he told the hearing.
He said the new unit will examine purported misconduct by agency staff and allegations that oil-and-gas producers are violating lease terms, making false statements or engaging in other misconduct to obtain leases.