Administration's Drilling Safety Rules Thrown Out
Jane Van Ryan
Posted October 20, 2010
The federal judge who overturned the initial deepwater drilling moratorium has thrown out operational provisions issued in a notice to offshore operators after the Deepwater Horizon accident.
U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman yesterday determined that the Department of the Interior failed to give drilling operators and lessees proper notice when it imposed 10 new safety measures under Notice to Lessees-05 (NTL-05). "Notice and comment were required by law. The government did not comply and the NTL-05 is of no lawful force or effect," Feldman said. (Bloomberg)
Feldman's ruling was issued in the Ensco Offshore Co. v. Salazar lawsuit in which the drilling services company is challenging the administration's second moratorium and NTL-05. After the moratorium was lifted last week, the administration's lawyers sought to dismiss the suit. But Ensco's lawyers told Judge Feldman yesterday the case should move forward because the moratorium continues. The administration has not "completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects" of the moratorium, they said. (Dow Jones)
In a court filing, Ensco's lawyers said the company continues to be "disadvantaged in the same fundamental way as under the formal moratorium: it is still unable to engage in any deepwater drilling activities barred by the moratorium."
Upon hearing that NTL-05 had been thrown out, API's Upstream Director Erik Milito focused on the oil and natural gas industry's safety improvements and its desire to put people back to work:
"The oil and natural gas industry has stepped up its commitment to the highest standards of safety. We have led the way through our task forces and have provided our recommendations to the government. Based upon the work of the industry since the spill, we as a nation now have an enhanced capability to prevent, contain and respond to a spill.
"We are looking ahead, and that will require the government to process and approve the backlog of pending permit in a timely way. We will continue to work with the government so that we can get back to work providing the energy our nation needs and increasing our energy security."
On Nov. 3, Judge Feldman will consider arguments about whether the administration's second drilling ban was legal.
Image Source: (AP Photo/Office of U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman)
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