MP support for UK deep-water drilling

The Energy and Climate Change Committee will publish its report on 'UK Deepwater Drilling - Implications of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill' on Thursday (6 January).

Despite fears that deep-water drilling could result in an oil spill disaster similar to that in the Gulf of Mexico last year, it is expected that plans will go ahead to drill into new oilfields off the Shetland Isles.

Tim Yeo, the Committee’s chairman has said that the UK’s energy policy and security depend on exploiting the newly discovered oilfields.

He said: “Although we heard evidence it is not always done right – and I am sure it is not always done right. Nevertheless, I think the concerns are nothing like big enough to justify stopping the process,”

DECC announced that it would conduct a review of the existing safety and environmental regulatory regimes after the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Greenpeace began a legal challenge in November to stop the government from issuing new licences for deep sea drilling until the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion have been properly established.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: “The government is handing out oil drilling licences left, right and centre as if the Deepwater Horizon disaster never happened. And they’ve got to stop.

“The oil industry is drilling in riskier and more dangerous places in UK waters, where a spill could be a disaster for wildlife.”

In the US, deep-water drilling could resume within weeks following pressure from the oil industry. An announcement on Monday by the Obama administration paved the way for 13 companies to resume deep-water oil and gas drilling. Drilling has been suspended since May after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) told the companies they may be able to restart drilling without the need to submit revised exploration or development plans. They said, however, the companies must comply with BOEMRE’s new policies and regulations.

BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich said: “Going forward, we are substantially enhancing our environmental reviews and analysis…

“But as we move forward, we are taking into account the special circumstances of those companies whose operations were interrupted by the moratorium and ensuring that they are able to resume previously-approved activities.

“For those companies that were in the midst of operations at the time of the deepwater suspensions, today’s notification is a significant step toward resuming their permitted activity.”

Alison Brown

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