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US issues first new deepwater drilling permit since spill

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 30, 2011
The United States on Wednesday issued the first deepwater drilling permit for a new project in the Gulf of Mexico since a moratorium was imposed last year in the wake of the devastating BP oil spill.

Earlier Wednesday, President Barack Obama vowed to cut US oil imports by a third in just over a decade in a major speech laying out a blueprint for a secure American energy future.

Six other deepwater drilling permits have been issued since the moratorium was lifted in October, but they were for projects that had previously been approved and were halted until new safety rules could be implemented.

The "rigorous" new standards include "satisfying the requirement to demonstrate the capacity to contain a subsea blowout," the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said.

A massive explosion on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers and sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig, opening a leak that released more than 205 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, fouling US shorelines, closing rich shrimp and fishing grounds, and scaring off tourists.

It was the biggest accidental spill in history and it took BP nearly three months to cap the gushing well some 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) belowing the surface.

The drilling permit was issued to Shell Offshore nine days after it received approval for a new deepwater exploration plan in its Auger field some 130 miles offshore of Louisiana.

"Today's permit approval represents a culmination of a broad and comprehensive review process involving an exploration plan, a site-specific environmental assessment, and the application for the drilling permit -- all of which complied with our rigorous safety and environmental standards," Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said in a statement.

"The completion of this process further demonstrates that we are proceeding as quickly as our resources allow to properly regulate offshore oil and gas operations in the most safe and environmentally-responsible manner."

The permit will allow Shell to drill a new well in Garden Banks Block 427 in 2,721 feet water depth.

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Obama vows cut in US oil imports by a third
Washington (AFP) March 30, 2011
President Barack Obama Wednesday told politicians to ditch slogans and gimmicks and join his drive to cut US oil imports by a third in a just over a decade, but hit a wall of Republican scorn. Obama made a major speech laying out a blueprint for a secure American energy future, warning that events like Japan's tsunami tragedy and Middle East crises made it even more vital to shield the US ec ... read more

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