Just weeks after U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Congressman Jeff Landry's showdown with oil and gas regulators, officials have approved BP's re-entry into deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico — though the green light is likely not Vitter and Landry's doing. Michael Bromwich, director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), said in a statement that BP met all its safety requirements "that go beyond" the agency's requirements.
BP got the go-ahead despite the fact it hasn't been financially penalized from its Clean Water Act violations and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment. In a statement aimed at the Obama Administration, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., wrote, "The fact that BP is getting a permit to drill without yet paying a single cent in fines is a disappointment, and does not serve as an effective lesson of deterrence for oil and gas companies." Markey, the leading Democratic member on the House Committee on Natural Resources, said Obama "should move with all haste to assess and collect" those fines, and BP should meet that pace "as a good corporate citizen."
Meanwhile, Louisiana's oil and gas interests are thrilled to have BP back in the Gulf. Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, not only applauded the "great news," but BP's restoration of both the "environment and the economy" following the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig last year and the months-long gusher that followed. "This indicates BP's confidence in the lessons learned from their detailed analysis of the Macondo incident and their pledge to focus on doing the job safely as they return to the Gulf of Mexico," John wrote in a statement. "It is my hope that this marks the beginning of certainty in the regulatory review process and that permits will start being issued in a timely manner." — Alex Woodward