EU to consider deepwater drilling limits

[JURIST] EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger [official website] indicated Saturday that the EU will consider limiting the depth of offshore deepwater oil drilling [JURIST news archive] or placing a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling following the recent BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in the Gulf of Mexico. He also suggested that the EU will discuss if it needs another agency to oversee offshore drilling, or if the European Maritime Safety Agency [official website] can sufficiently regulate deepwater drilling operations. Oettinger first called for a moratorium on new deepwater drilling [statement] earlier this week when presenting a report on the risk of oil exploration to the European Parliament [official website]. In his speech Oettinger stated:

[G]iven the current circumstances, any responsible Government would at present practically freeze new permits for drilling with extreme parameters and conditions. This can mean de facto a moratorium on new drills until the causes of the accident are known and corrective measures are taken for such frontier operations as the ones carried out by the Deepwater Horizon.
He also called on EU member states to enforce regulations that are currently in place and to authorize new regulations where necessary in order to prevent any future oil spills. Oettinger is scheduled to meet [Reuters report] with both oil company executives and a panel of regulatory supervisors on Wednesday to discuss potential regulations and changes in the EU deepwater drilling protocol.

The EU is not the only governing body considering new drilling regulations in light of the BP oil spill. In May, the Obama administration issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling [JURIST report] in US coastal waters. Last month, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] against the moratorium on the basis that the ban caused irreparable harm to both the plaintiffs and the public, and that Obama administration considered no alternatives when enacting the broad regulation. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] requested that a federal appeals court stay the preliminary injunction while they appeal the lower court's ruling, but the court of appeals denied the DOJ's request [JURIST reports] for a stay of the injunction. In June, the UK announced that the government will increase inspection [press release; JURIST report] of North Sea oil rigs and monitoring of offshore compliance and safety standards in response to the BP oil spill. The UK government also established the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group [official website] to conduct a review of the country's ability to prevent and respond to oil spills.

 

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