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Energy divided over regulatory body

Jan. 31, 2011 at 10:01 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Energy experts in the United States expressed divisions over the best way forward in restoring public trust in deep-water oil and natural gas exploration.

Deep-water work came under fire last year after the Macondo well nearly 1 mile below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico failed, causing the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to catch fire and sink. The deadly accident led to one of the worst offshore oil spills in the history of the industry.

William Reilly, a former director at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and co-chairman of a safety commission, told the Financial Times that any new safety body "has to be a different institution with a different staff, a different name and a different physical location from the American Petroleum Institute."

API both lobbies for the oil industry in Washington and sets the technical standards for the industry. Critics complain the dual propose is a conflict of interest, though API Upstream Director Erik Milito said his group was the best one for the job.

"This new institute would be just as strong within the API as outside it," he said. "In fact, it could be stronger, given that we have expertise in systems and certification programs."

Washington lifted a moratorium in deep-water drilling last year though the U.S. government hasn't issued any new permits for exploratory work.

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