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Feds pressed on offshore drilling

Safety improved since BP spill, energy groups say.
By Daniel J. Graeber   |   Aug. 20, 2014 at 9:08 AM  |  Updated Aug. 20, 2014 at 9:41 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- The federal government is called on to open all U.S. territorial waters to offshore drilling because of improved safety measures, energy groups said.

A coalition of oil and gas groups led by the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Oil & Gas Association called on the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to open all U.S. territorial waters to drillers under a five-year energy plan ending in 2022.

"We believe that BOEM should fully consider all areas for inclusion in the program and keep as many areas as feasible in the draft proposed program," the coalition said in a letter filed with the Interior Department.

The group said offshore incident response has improved dramatically in the wake of the BP spill in 2010 from the Deepwater Horizon rig leased from Transocean. That incident was the worst of its kind and took nearly three months to contain.

API in July outlined recommended practices for the installation of so-called capping stacks, a mechanism developed in the wake of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

An interim well containment system was made available to the industry in early 2011 by the Marine Well Containment Co., a non-profit collaboration between ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell.

The Atlantic Ocean is currently off limits to energy explorers, about 30 percent of the Gulf of Mexico is closed and few areas up and down the west coast, including Alaska, are open to drilling. Operations in northern U.S. arctic waters are under review.

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