White House to Lift Ban on Deep-Water Drilling

The Obama administration on Tuesday plans to announce that it is lifting the moratorium on deep-water oil drilling, after putting in place new rules intended to tighten safety.

Oil Rig
Oil Rig

President Obama imposed the moratorium after the blowout of a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20 led to the largest maritime oil spill in American history. But the White House has come under intense pressure from the industry and from regional officials and businesses that have complained about the economic impact.

“The process is coming to its natural end,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday morning. “I believe the process will wrap up very soon.” The Interior Department later sent reporters an e-mail announcing that it would hold a telephone news conference at 1 p.m. to discuss the resumption of deep-water drilling.

The moratorium was supposed to run through Nov. 30, but the administration has been working on changes designed to improve safety, oversight and environmental protection standards. Nearly two weeks ago, the Interior Department issued new rules governing areas like well casing and cementing, blowout preventers, safety certification, emergency response and worker training.

Michael R. Bromwich, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, was assigned to draft a report for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar providing a blueprint for safely resuming drilling. Even after the moratorium is lifted, officials have said it could be weeks or even months before new permits are granted to start up operations again.

The moratorium idled 33 deep-water rigs in the gulf, affecting many jobs and triggering anger in the region. Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, has blocked the confirmation of Mr. Obama’s nominee to run the Office of Management and Budget, Jack Lew, until the moratorium is eased. Environmentalists have called on the White House to extend the freeze on deep-water drilling and extend it to shallow-water drilling.