Federal drilling chief refuses to pin down date for early end of deep-water ban

The nation's top drilling regulator is refusing to pin down a date for a possible early end to the deep-water petroleum drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico.

Michael Bromwich is head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. He would not commit Wednesday to a deadline for a decision.

He had said Tuesday that the Obama administration was considering tossing out the six-month ban.

He now says it is "very unlikely" a decision will come before a federal appeals court's Sept. 1 hearing on a lawsuit challenging the moratorium.

The ban was struck down by a federal judge in June. A second version emphasizing safety equipment rather than water depth was imposed in July. hopes of passing legal muster.

Bromwich's comments came during a public forum in New Orleans.