Drilling permits, waivers still issued

May 24, 2010 at 10:19 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 24 (UPI) -- U.S. regulators have issued permits for drilling and granted environmental waivers, saying the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico will not stop offshore drilling.

The Interior Department and the Minerals Management Service have issued at least seven new permits and five environmental waivers since BP's Deepwater Horizon well exploded and sank, killing 11 workers and triggering a massive oil spill, The New York Times reported Monday. Regulators said some of the permits were necessary to guarantee the safety of existing projects.

The Times quoted federal officials as saying the moratorium declared by President Barack Obama in the wake of the disaster was not meant to halt work on existing projects. However, the Times said, some of the waivers have been for sites deeper than the Deepwater Horizon, which is 5,000 feet down. The Times said some of the permissions have gone to wells 9,100 feet deep.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., said stronger environmental reviews should be standard operating procedure now, not lax controls.

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