The Obama administration on Monday said it will loosen environmental restrictions on oil and natural gas deepwater drilling projects, but reiterated that companies looking to operate deepwater projects must meet enhanced safety protocols. The administration had temporarily banned deepwater drilling following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
While the deepwater drilling moratorium was lifted in October, no new permits for deepwater projects have been issued by the federal government. The policy will impact 13 companies with projects that were already underway when the Interior Department imposed its ban on deepwater drilling, Reuters reported.
Despite the new standards, drilling will not commence immediately. Companies that were in the middle of projects when the moratorium was imposed must still meet new safety requirements though the Interior Department said it is taking into the account the circumstances of companies whose projects were impacted by the moratorium.
Republicans, who will control the House of Representatives in the new Congress, vow to press the Obama administration on the slow permitting process, according to Reuters. The moratorium applied to drilling projects that operated at depths greater than 500 feet.