WASHINGTON, DC – In spite of the fact that on the weekend of March 12, 2011 the government issued a new permit for deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, a major oil industry trade group says it's not enough. On March 12, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) agreed to allow BHP Billiton PLC to resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, but this was only the second deepwater permit to be issued by the government since the BP oil spill of 2010. An official from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an oil industry trade group, praised the recent approval of a second deepwater oil drilling permit by the government but said that the White House needs to stop taking "baby steps" on offshore drilling. In an article in The Hill website there was mention of a statement by API Upstream Director Erik Milito on this matter. In the statement, Mr. Milito says: As we said last week, all new permits are welcome, but the administration has once again chosen to focus on baby steps, approving a permit for a project that was operational prior to the moratorium, instead of taking the steps necessary to produce the domestic resources this country needs In fairness to the Obama Administration, the Interior Department has issued a series of tougher safety regulations after the disastrous Gulf oil spill and these new rules were issued for good reason. Under the new, more stringent rules, companies must prove that they can contain blowouts from deepwater oil wells. As a result, the rate at which new deepwater permits have been issued has slowed down because companies have to demonstrate that they can comply with the new regulations. The country does not want a repeat of what happened last year and even though the lack of new permits has had a negative impact on Gulf communities who depend on work from the oil industry, nevertheless, safety must be a high priority along with the care for our coastal waters and marine environment. The current administration is facing pressure from oil industry groups but despite the criticism, and the spectre of rising oil prices in the face of world political events the oil industry must rise to the challenge and put in place the necessary technology, procedures and safeguards to ensure that we never have a repeat like the BP oil spill catastrophe that happened in the summer and fall of 2010. Yes, the country needs to produce its own oil and rely less on imports. The Obama administration assures its critics that it is committed to supporting oil-and-gas drilling as one part of the nation's energy portfolio and that is working diligently to issue new permits. But the oil industry must do its part and prove that it can be trusted with our valuable natural resources and the safety of its work force. Published by maritime lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP
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