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Drilling ban lifted; uncertainties still face Gulf

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Deep water oil drills quieted by a six-month moratorium will again hum off the Gulf Coast, helping an industry that, despite its dangers, puts needed money in the pockets of thousands along the Gulf Coast. What’s less certain is just how soon the jobs on hold because of the six-month ban will come back to a region trying to recover.

Thirty-three deep water operations were halted by the moratorium imposed as the BP oil disaster unfolded. Meeting new federal safety requirements imposed since then will take time for oil companies.

“Those big rigs that left the Gulf, it’s going to take them a while to come back,” said Ronnie Kennier, an Empire, La., fisherman working in BP’s vessel of opportunity oil clean-up program.

The Obama administration, under heavy pressure from the oil industry and Gulf states and with elections nearing, on Tuesday lifted the moratorium that it imposed in April. The ban had been scheduled to expire Nov. 30, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar moved up the deadline, saying new rules have strengthened safety and reduced the risk of another catastrophic blowout that caused more than 200 million gallons of crude to spew from BP’s well a mile beneath the Gulf.

A federal report said the prohibition likely caused a temporary loss of 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in the Gulf region and drilling is unlikely to resume for at least a few weeks.

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