Federal regulators approved Wednesday the first new Gulf of Mexico oil well since President Barack Obama lifted a brief ban on drilling in shallow water, even while deepwater projects remain frozen after the massive BP spill.
The Minerals Management Service granted a new drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the ocean’s surface.
It’s south of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Game Preserve, far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the BP spill.
Obama last week extended a moratorium on wells in deep water like the BP one that blew out a mile below the surface in April and is gushing millions of gallons of oil. But at the same time, the president quietly allowed a three-week-old ban on drilling in shallow water to expire.
“I’m outraged,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity. “How is it that shallow water drilling suddenly became safe again?”