New safety and environmental rules for offshore drilling will be issued by the Interior Department by the end of this week, but it will take some time for the industry to comply with the rules and the government to certify that compliance, said Michael Bromwich, director of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM).

"When the moratorium is lifted you are not going to see drilling the next day or the next week. It will take some time," Bromwich said.

Testifying Monday before the White House commission investigating the BP oil spill, Bromwich said that for the most part the two "significant" rules to be issued at the end of this week will be no surprise to the industry; the technical requirements have been mentioned in earlier reports on the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) spill. "Much of what we will be announcing consists of carrying out recommendations made to the President" in an earlier report, according to Bromwich, who said an interim final rule would be effective immediately.

Nevertheless, the BOEM director said he has no direct knowledge as to which Gulf rig operators might be close to compliance. The operators will have to submit new applications to drill and his agency will review their operations to see if they comply with both old and new rules.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, testifying at the same time, said he had assigned additional personnel from other parts of Interior to speed the review of both shallow water permit applications that already have been filed and the new ones expected to come from deepwater drillers.

The moratorium on deepwater GOM drilling instituted by the Interior Department was scheduled to end Nov. 30 (see Daily GPI, July 13). There have been hints from Interior officials that it could end earlier, but it was apparent from Monday's testimony that actual drilling would be sometime in the future.

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