WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- U.S. offshore-drilling regulators are trying to clear a path for 13 oil and gas companies to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the Obama administration suspended their projects following the Deepwater Horizon
Amid mounting criticism over the pace of drilling activity in the Gulf, the U.S. Interior Department said Monday these 13 companies could resume their deepwater drilling projects without undergoing additional environmental reviews.
In December, the Interior Department said it would conduct additional reviews for companies submitting new plans or seeking new permits on previously approved plans.
Monday's announcement doesn't represent a shift in policy, but provides a clarification on existing procedures for companies that were already drilling new wells when the moratorium was put in place, a department spokesman said.
"For those companies that were in the midst of operations at the time of the deepwater suspensions, today's notification is a significant step toward resuming their permitted activity," Bromwich said in a statement.
The companies, which include ATP Oil & Gas Corp. (ATPG
: 16.91, +0.17, +1.02%), Chevron USA Inc., Noble Energy Inc. (NBL
: 84.79, -1.30, -1.51%) and Shell Offshore Inc., will still have to comply with new safety regulations before they revive their deepwater drilling projects.
The Obama administration imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Government officials said they wanted to ensure the safety of other drilling projects in the area. The administration lifted the moratorium in October, but lawmakers and energy companies are now criticizing the speed at which the Interior Department is approving projects in both shallow and deep waters of the Gulf.
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