Oettinger proposes deepwater drilling moratorium

BP oil spill picnik.jpg

The European Union should consider a moratorium on new deepwater drilling for oil until a probe is completed into the causes of BP's spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Europe's energy chief said on yesterday (7 July).

"Utmost caution must be exercised for the moment with respect to new drillings," European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger told the European Parliament, according to his speaking notes.

"Given the current circumstances, any responsible government would at present practically freeze new permits for drilling with extreme parameters and conditions," he added.

"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 (such) as the ones carried out by the Deepwater Horizon."

A US presidential panel to probe the cause of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will hold its first public meeting in New Orleans on 12-13 July and has six months to do its work.

The Obama administration had issued a moratorium on offshore drilling to give the commission time for its investigation, but it now hangs in the balance after a federal court lifted the ban. The US government is appealing.

Oettinger said the EU could still take precautionary steps before the US concludes its probe.

"Authorisation procedures must require demonstrations of the capacity of the operator to deal with critical events," said Oettinger.

"Equally, a demonstration of the financial strength necessary to assume full responsibility for damage caused is needed," he added. "We have to see what best instruments can be used in that regard, whether insurance obligations, a special European fund or some other adequately robust solution."

"If proven necessary, we will not hesitate to come with legislative initiatives in the coming months."

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, also known as Deepwater Horizon oil spill, by the name of the BP drilling platform which exploded on 20 April 2010, is the largest oil spill in US history.

The spill, which is not yet under control in spite of massive efforts, has had an extensive environmental impact on marine and wildlife habitats, as well as on fisheries and tourism.

The spill response is expected to cost several billion dollars.

The US government has named BP as the responsible party, but opinion polls show that US President Barack Obama is paying a heavy political price for the disaster.

In the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik will meet representatives of oil and gas companies and national surveillance authorities on 14 July 2010 (EURACTIV 24/06/10). Their aim is to discuss whether EU legislation should be reviewed.

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