Secretary Salazar: Drilling Ban Stays Until “I Feel Comfortable”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced on Thursday that the federal government's ban on deepwater offshore oil drilling will stay in place until he feels "comfortable we have significantly reduced the risks" associated with drilling.

The statement comes as the Interior Department announced new rules designed to improve current safety standards. The regulations involve requirements for safety equipment, blowout prevention practices, and reducing the risk of human error.

"These new rules and the aggressive reform agenda we have undertaken are raising the bar for the oil and gas industry's safety and environmental practices on the Outer Continental Shelf," said Salazar, who announced the rules in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington.

The new guidelines are a direct response to the massive explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and subsequent spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Since that spill five months ago, a bipartisan war has erupted on Capitol Hill over whether to continue offshore drilling.

One of the most vocal critics of the the current six-month drilling moratorium, Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, calls it a terrible error. "This Administration has the entire exploration of oil and gas shut down in the Gulf of Mexico...I know the United States needs someone running point on this economic recovery, but I need someone running point on Gulf Coast economic recovery right now," Landrieu said.

Secretary Salazar is dismissive of the moratorium's critics. "The same people, who have fought to weaken regulations, have protested the suspension from the start. They want to ignore the new reality, as if nothing happened in the gulf," Salazar said.

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