A bipartisan group of senators led by Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced a resolution Wednesday calling on the Interior Department to streamline the review process for shallow and deepwater drilling applications and provide better guidance to producers seeking new permits.

Hutchison and Landrieu were joined by Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) in introducing the Senate resolution urging timely review of drilling applications.

The Obama administration imposed a moratorium on overall drilling in the Gulf of Mexico last May following a deadly explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon mobile rig leased by BP plc (see Daily GPI, April 22, 2010). While the bans have been lifted, Interior has not awarded any permits for drilling in the deepwater Gulf since then, and fewer than 35 permits to explore the shallow waters have been issued, the senators said.

Moreover, Interior's new safety requirements have not been clearly outlined to shallow or deepwater operators, which has prevented applications from being approved, the senators said. As a result, at least 12 rigs (both shallow and deepwater) have left the Gulf, many of them departing for international work, sending American jobs overseas.

"It has been nearly 10 months since the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Interior Department still has not streamlined the shallow-water permitting process," Landrieu said.

"The ongoing delays in the offshore permitting process have cast a pall on offshore energy production and overall Gulf Coast economy. Nobody wants a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, but neither do we want to hamstring an industry that creates jobs," Cochran said.

"The administration has dragged its feet long enough on shallow-water drilling. When companies start filing for bankruptcy protection -- as Seahawk Drilling did recently -- it's time to end the de facto moratorium on shallow-water drilling and let people get back to work producing the energy America depends on," Murkowski said (see Daily GPI, Feb. 15).

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