Interior Department clarifies rules on shallow water drilling

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Interior Department has issued new rules intended to clarify steps that oil and gas companies must complete before drilling wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

The rules require operators to certify they meet all federal regulations and have tested their drilling equipment and reviewed procedures to ensure safety and environmental protection.

The rules, issued Tuesday by the Minerals Management Service, appear aimed at quelling a growing controversy over whether the Obama administration had, in effect, imposed a moratorium on shallow-water drilling, in addition to a six-month ban on drilling in water deeper than 500 feet.

Operators had complained that without specific rules, they could not meet federal directives announced last month.