The White House lifted a temporary ban on the drilling of deep water wells in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, five- and a-half months after an oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and blew out BP's Macondo well a mile beneath the water's surface.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement
well ahead of the scheduled expiration of the moratorium on Nov. 30, the Washington Post
reported. President Obama had ordered the suspension of deep water drilling to allow time for safety checks of drilling equipment and procedures, but Gulf interests protested that the ban was taking away some 8,000 jobs in the oil-dependent region. Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D-La.), was so upset that she placed a hold on the nomination of Jacob Lew to head the Office of Management and Budget, blocking his confirmation to a key White House post.
Salazar, in the phone call with reporters, said, "we have made, and continue to make, significant progress in reducing the risk associated with deep-water drilling." At this point, Salazar said, "we believe the strengthened safety measures we have implemented, along with improved spill response and blowout containment capabilities, have reduced risks to a point where operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume."
Permits will now be issued "for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set," the Interior secretary said.
The blow out of BP's Macondo well poured more than 205 million gallons
of oil into the Gulf -- the worst oil spill in U.S. history.