The moratorium, imposed after the BP oil spill that began in April, was established to curb the effects of the lax safety and environmental regulations that were later deemed key contributors to the crisis, according to the New York Times.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar noted significant strides have been made in risk reduction in the deepwater drilling process since the aftermath of the spill. As a result, he said, the ban is no longer necessary.
“I have decided that it is now appropriate to lift the suspension … for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set,” Salazar told the Times.
Though the Obama administration cited the moratorium as necessary for safety reasons, critics say it caused a loss of 8,000 to 12,000 jobs throughout the Gulf region, according to MSNBC.
The new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement – formerly the Minerals
Management Service – established new rules that include tougher standards for well design, blowout preventers, safety certification, emergency response and worker training.
“The oil and gas industry will be operating under tighter rules, stronger oversight, and in a regulatory environment that will remain dynamic as we continue to build on the reforms we have already implemented,” Salazar said.
Before they can commence drilling, offshore operators will be required to submit applications proving compliance with the new rules and undergo rig inspection.
Officials are unsure as to when the first permit will be issued, but expect some rigs to be up and running by the end of this year.
Compliance with the new regulations should cost the deepwater industry $183 million a year, according to BOEMRE estimates.