The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) Monday notified 13 major and independent producers whose deepwater drilling activities were suspended by last year's deepwater drilling moratorium that they may be able to resume previously approved activities without the need to submit revised exploration and development plans for supplemental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

But before resuming those activities, the producers were reminded that they must first comply with the Interior Department agency's new policies and regulations, said BOEM Director Michael R. Bromwich.

The 13 producers that were notified were ATP Oil & Gas Corp., BHP Billiton Petroleum (GOM) Inc., Chevron USA Inc., Cobalt International Energy, ENI U.S. Operating Co. Inc., Hess Corp., Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Corp., Marathon Oil Co., Murphy Exploration & Production Co.-USA, Noble Energy Inc., Shell Offshore Inc., Statoil USA E&P Inc. and Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

"Going forward, we are substantially enhancing our environmental reviews and analysis under NEPA," Bromwich said. "But as we move forward, we are taking into account the special circumstances of those companies whose operations were interrupted by the moratorium [in the Gulf of Mexico] and ensuring that they are able to resume previously approved activities. For those companies that were in the midst of operations at the time of the deepwater suspensions, today's notification is a significant step toward resuming their permitted activity."

The BOEM notice lays out the steps the companies must take for previously approved operations to restart their activities, including complying with new regulations and information requirements in Notice to Lessees (NTL) NO6 and N10, and the interim final safety rule.

The operators will not be required to revise a previously submitted exploration plan or development operations coordination document if the worst-case discharge estimated for the project, as calculated pursuant to NTL-NO6, is less than the worst-case discharge estimate included by the company in its oil spill response plan. However, if the worst-case discharge exceeds the oil spill response plan, further reviews will be conducted, the agency said.

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