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Obama Administration Lifts Ban on Deepwater Drilling

UPDATE: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Tuesday afternoon that deepwater oil and gas drilling could resume.  Salazar said in a statement that the drilling could go on with some conditions, including "compliance with all existing rules and requirements, including those that recently went into effect, and that members of industry demonstrate the availability of adequate blowout containment resources."

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will make an announcement on the federal government's deepwater drilling moratorium "soon...in fact, it is imminent."

This is according to Michael Bromwich, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning in Washington, Bromwich said officials understand, "real and substantial pain has been inflicted on people, particularly in the gulf region."

However, Bromwich stood by the federal government's decision to apply the moratorium -- saying it was critical, "to diminish the chances of another tragedy like we saw with the Deepwater Horizon."

Officials with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement tell Fox, "When he said imminent...he meant it, don't go home early today."

The same official says it is likely that the announcement will come via a conference call with the media.

Even if the moratorium is lifted it will still take at least four to six weeks before new deepwater drilling permits are granted.

"It will take some time for companies to believe they have complied with the new rules and requirements," said Bromwich. "We will need to do inspections on all the platforms before we can allow those permits."

Bromwich delivered a report to Salazar on October 1 with recommendations on whether to end the moratorium early.

The secretary's decision on whether or not to modify or end the ban before the November 30 expiration date has nothing to do with any political pressure, according to Bromwich.

Bromwich also laid down a gauntlet, saying the process between the government and the oil industry will change, "We're not going to be captive to industry. We're not going to just apply their recommendations verbatim."