Interior Department Denies Report That BP Has Agreement to Resume Drilling

NEW YORK CITY, NY – A recent article in the Bloomberg News website states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar denied a recent news report appearing in the Sunday Times of London that BP, PLC had reached an agreement with the U.S. to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Salazar told Bloomberg News in a conference call with reporters that there was no agreement with BP, PLC to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Salazar was in Mexico City at the time of the conference call. Bloomberg.com reports what Salazar said on the call from Mexico City: There is no agreement with respect to BP, nor will there be any agreement with respect to BP or anybody else that isn't within the normal process that we have," … "We receive applications for wells, and those applications will be taken through the same process, with the same rigorous review that we are requiring of any other company. The article describes some of the requirements oil companies must meet in the process of approval of an application for deepwater drilling. Oil companies have to: Apply to Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Demonstrate access to equipment helping contain spilled oil. Meet higher safety and environmental standards introduced after BP's Macondo well in the Gulf exploded on April 20, 2010. The article goes on to say: The bureau has approved drilling on eight wells in waters deeper than 500 feet (152 meters) after a ban on such operations was lifted in October. BP has a stake of about 47.5 percent in the site called the Santiago prospect, which was the first to win Interior's approval to resume operations on Feb. 28. Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. (NBL) is the operator on that project. Bloomberg news also sought comments from both BP and the Interior Department. A BP spokesman did not return a phone call to the news agency, but did receive a reply from Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department. Schwartz stated that there were no ongoing talks with BP, and that the agency issues permits based on the merits of the application. Published by maritime lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP

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