Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pushed back against reports that BP is in talks to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, almost a year after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowout killed 11 workers and dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean, calling those reports a “misconception.”
The New York Times reported over the weekend that two anonymous BP officials said the energy company is in talks to resume drilling at 10 of their wells in the Gulf, as long as they agree to stricter safety regulations. According to one of the officials, the agreement could be reached in the next month.
“We’re making progress but it’s not a yes yet,” one of the officials reportedly said.
But, Reuters reports, Salazar strongly denied this: “There is absolutely no such agreement nor would there be such an agreement,” he said Monday. Salazar also said that BP would have to go through the same process as other companies in order to resume drilling.
A temporary blanket ban was put on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico last May as a result of the spill, but it was lifted in October.
According to the Times:
The regulator had recently started to permit some deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Royal Dutch Shell won approval on Wednesday to drill off the coast of Louisiana on the condition that rigorous new safety standards were met. Other companies that have been allowed to continue drilling in the region include Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BHP Billiton.
The Justice Department said last week that it’s considering manslaughter charges against BP and Transocean, the company that leased the oil rig to BP, as part of its criminal investigation of the explosion and spill. According to the Washington Post, other possible charges include “potential violations of environmental laws and whether company officials made false statements to regulators, obstructed justice or falsified test results for devices such as the rig’s failed blowout preventer.”
Transocean, meanwhile, recently handed out bonuses, citing its “best year in safety performance” despite the explosion. “Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record,” the company said in a filing.