Wicker and Cochran applaud Obama for altering shallow water drilling moratorium

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today welcomed the Obama administration’s decision to moderate its moratorium on offshore drilling in a manner that will allow shallow water drilling activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cochran and Wicker said the changes to the offshore moratorium should help avert the potential job losses that would have occurred under the broad ban imposed following the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April.

The Mississippi Senators last week were among a bipartisan group of Senators who encouraged Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to resume the permit process for shallow water drilling activities. The Obama administration has agreed to alter its moratorium, allowing offshore energy production in wells in water less than 500 feet deep. The moratorium on deep water exploration is extended for an additional six months, and the Interior Department expects to proceed with stronger safety restrictions and inspections.

“I appreciate the administration’s recognition that its original moratorium was too broad and would have unnecessarily put thousands of jobs in peril. Dozens of offshore platforms in shallow water today produce natural gas and have a very good safety record,” Cochran said. “I am as anxious as anyone for BP to contain this oil spill and for cleanup activities, which could take years to complete, to be accelerated. Those are goals that will ensure that the economy and ecology of the Gulf Coast region fully recover from this disaster.”

“The moratorium on shallow water drilling was ill-advised and unnecessary. I appreciate the administration’s willingness to listen to the facts and alter the shallow water ban,” Wicker said. “This will prevent further loss of jobs and will not pose additional threats to the environment.”

Cochran and Wicker were among the Senators who last week warned that at least 5,000 jobs on approximately 50 shallow water platforms in the Gulf of Mexico could be lost within six weeks if the broad moratorium were not amended.

The correspondence to Salazar signed by the Mississippi Senators last week highlighted the safe performance record among shallow water drilling companies in American offshore waters, particularly those producing natural gas. At the same time, the letter also stressed their support of fully evaluating the cause of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 rig workers and ensuring the proper safeguards are in place to avoid future accidents.

Most shallow rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are drilled for natural gas rather than petroleum, and such rigs use surface-level blowout preventer stacks that have a better safety record than those mounted on the seafloor with deepwater wells, according to the International Association of Drilling Contractors.

Press Release