The Obama administration on Tuesday lifted the six-month moratorium on deep water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico that was imposed after the BP oil spill.
The administration has been under heavy pressure from the industry and others in the region to lift the ban on grounds it has cost jobs and damaged the economy. A federal report said the moratorium likely caused a temporary loss of 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in the Gulf region.
While the temporary ban on exploratory oil and gas drilling is lifted immediately, drilling is unlikely to resume immediately.
Michael Bromwich, director of the agency that oversees offshore drilling, said it would take "at least a couple of weeks" after the ban is lifted before permits are approved.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that new rules imposed after the BP spill — the worst environmental disaster in the country's history — have strengthened safety measures and reduced the risk of another catastrophic blowout.
"Operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume" drilling, Salazar said at a news conference.
"The oil and gas industry will be operating under tighter rules, stronger oversight, and in a regulatory environment that will remain dynamic as we continue to build on the reforms we have already implemented," he said.