Interior action ordered on two more drilling permits
NEW ORLEANS - The federal judge who overturned the Obama administration's moratorium on deepwater drilling after the Gulf oil spill ordered federal regulators on Tuesday to act on two more drilling permit applications.
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled last month that the Interior Department must act within 30 days on five pending permit applications. On Tuesday, Feldman said his ruling also applies to two applications submitted by Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas Corp.
In June, Feldman struck down the department's decision to halt new permits for deepwater projects and suspend drilling on 33 exploratory wells.
Feldman's latest ruling comes a day after the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement announced it approved the first deepwater drilling permit since the spill. The bureau on Monday issued a permit to Noble Energy Inc. to continue work on its Santiago well about 70 miles southeast of Venice, La.
ATP is applying to resume drilling a well and to complete another well. Feldman said the government "trivializes the delays, asserting it cannot act on either permit application because it has only recently returned them both to ATP for further supplementation."
"The government fails to acknowledge that the two permit applications at issue now have remained pending for several months - far in excess of the thirty-day time period deemed as reasonable in the court's earlier order," Feldman wrote.