Interior cuts OCS permitting pending safety review

The US Department of the Interior is restricting oil and gas activity on the Outer Continental Shelf in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, May 7
-- The US Department of the Interior is restricting oil and gas activity on the Outer Continental Shelf in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his department will handle no applications for OCS drilling permits filed since Apr. 20, date of the fatal explosion on the Transocean Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilling rig, until it completes a safety review requested by President Barack Obama.

Exempted from the action are two relief wells on the BP Macondo blowout. Interior’s safety report is due May 28.

Interior’s Minerals Management Service has notified Shell Oil Co. that it will make no final decision until the report has been submitted and evaluated on permits Shell seeks for exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea off Alaska.

Interior also has postponed public meetings on potential offshore energy development off Virginia, where it has added plans for an OCS sale to the current 5-year schedule.

A statement from the department called the action temporary and said it was taken “so that information from the ongoing review of OCS safety issues that the president has directed can be appropriately considered at those meetings.”

It said MMS is focusing its attention on the Deepwater Horizon incident “and would be unable to conduct the meetings until a later date.”

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