Obama to Take Questions, Announce New Drilling Regulations Thursday

President Obama will apparently break his many months-long streak without answering reporters extended questions when he holds what the White House is calling a press conference with reporters Thursday. The timing is significant politically for the president, whose performance in handling the BP spill is being increasingly scrutinized as he prepares for his second trip to the region, also on Thursday.

Major Garrett reports that Mr. Obama will announce new offshore oil drilling regulations, including more thorough safety inspections of drilling sites and a more refined permitting process. The government, which approves drilling projects in federal waters, has come under fire for not only lax environmental clearances for such projects, but for being too cozy with the oil companies it oversees.

Thursday's announcement and press conference come on the same day the president receives a review from his Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on ways to improve safety and permitting for oil and gas exploration projects.

The very oil rig which exploded on April 20th and caused the now infamous miles-wide oil spill, had been given a "categorical exemption" from environmental regulations and disaster response plans by the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service just ten days before, reports Major Garrett. Salazar has since announced a decision to separate the powers of the MMS to de-link the drilling approval process from its oversight responsibilities.

It is unclear at this point how many questions the president will take. While Mr. Obama does take questions from the press, he's come under fire by those in the media who say those questions and who gets to ask them has been too limited.