Breaking News, Oil drilling Ban may be Lifted soon.
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The federal government may lift a ban on drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico ahead of a Nov. 30 deadline, the nation's top regulator of the oil and gas industry said Tuesday.
Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said regulators are studying whether to scrap the ban or revise it. His comments came as BP PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!bp/quotes/nls/bp (BP 39.50, -0.51, -1.26%) managed to cap the well that caused the worst environmental accident in U.S. history.
The ban has drawn a lawsuit from industry players and criticism from political leaders in the region. It has been blamed for job losses biting into earnings from Baker Hughes /quotes/comstock/13*!bhi/quotes/nls/bhi (BHI 42.56, -1.10, -2.52%) and oil-industry service companies.
The ban was also struck down by a federal judge, but then the Interior Department issued a new order.
A total of 33 drilling rigs have been shut down in recent weeks as a result of the ban, enforced after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig caused the worst oil spill of all time in U.S. waters.
"I think it is everybody's hope that we will feel comfortable enough that the moratorium can be lifted significantly in advance of Nov. 30," Bromwich said Tuesday, according to reports. "But I can't say when."
His comment came as industry leaders, environmentalists, and academic experts gathered in New Orleans for a series of public forums on the spill.
On July 22, Exxon Mobil /quotes/comstock/13*!xom/quotes/nls/xom (XOM 62.42, -0.30, -0.48%) , Royal Dutch Shell /quotes/comstock/13*!rds.a/quotes/nls/rds.a (RDS.A 57.59, -0.97, -1.66%) , Chevron /quotes/comstock/13*!cvx/quotes/nls/cvx (CVX 78.71, +0.05, +0.06%) and ConocoPhillips /quotes/comstock/13*!cop/quotes/nls/cop (COP 57.16, -0.40, -0.70%) set plans to invest $1 billion to form a nonprofit company called Marine Well Containment Co. aimed at beefing up spill response in the Gulf of Mexico. See full story.
Bromwich took the job two months ago as director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The agency formerly was known as the Minerals Management Service before President Obama changed its name and ordered a reorganization the wake of scandals and of the BP leak.
The House of Representatives also voted to end the drilling ban in a measure passed last week, along with measures to tighten controls. See full story.
Steve Gelsi is a reporter for MarketWatch in New York.