WASHINGTON (AP) -- Thirteen companies whose deepwater drilling activities were suspended last year may be able to resume drilling without detailed environmental reviews, the Obama administration said Monday.
The companies -- they include Chevron USA Inc. and Shell Offshore Inc. -- will be allowed to resume work at previously drilled wells, as long as they meet new policies and regulations, officials said.
"For those companies that were in the midst of operations at the time of the deepwater suspensions (last spring), today's notification is a significant step toward resuming their permitted activity," said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
The decision is a victory for the drilling companies, which in the past had routinely won broad waivers from rules requiring detailed environmental studies. After the disastrous BP spill in April, the Obama administration pledged it would require companies to complete environmental reviews before being allowed to drill for oil.
The administration has been under heavy pressure from the oil industry, Gulf state leaders and congressional Republicans to speed up drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which has come to a near halt since a moratorium on deepwater drilling was imposed in the wake of the BP spill. The ban was lifted in October, but drilling has not yet resumed in waters deeper than 500 feet.
The 13 companies that received the notice are: ATP Oil & Gas Corp.; BHP Billiton Petroleum (GOM) Inc.; Chevron USA Inc.; Cobalt International Energy; ENI U.S. Operating Co. Inc.; Hess Corp.; Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Corp.; Marathon Oil Co.; Murphy Exploration & Production Co.-USA; Noble Energy Inc.; Shell Offshore Inc.; Statoil USA E & P Inc.; and Walter Oil & Gas Corp.