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US defends reviews of new drilling permits

The government is defending the time it is taking to approve deepwater offshore drilling permits that would have been suspended under the moratorium that was lifted nearly a month ago.

Ensco Offshore claims that since the ban was lifted Oct. 12, the government has not issued a single permit that would allow the resumption of any previously suspended drilling activities.

The government doesn't seem to dispute that allegation, saying in a late Monday filing that it must ensure applications meet regulations toughened after the Gulf oil spill.

The issue was to be discussed at a Tuesday court hearing.

Since Oct. 12, the government has received one application for a permit to drill a new well and one to drill a sidetrack. It also received three revised applications for permits to drill. All are pending.

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