Jun 22, 2010 11:35 AM by Melissa Canone
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The owner of the offshore rig involved in the
massive Gulf oil spill sharply criticized the U.S. government's
six-month ban on deepwater drilling Tuesday.
Transocean Ltd. president Steven Newman told reporters at an oil
industry conference in London that there were things President
Barack Obama's administration "could implement today that would
allow the industry to go back to work tomorrow without an arbitrary
six-month time limit."
Transocean owns the Deepwater Horizon rig, which was run by
British oil company BP PLC. An April 20 explosion on the rig killed
11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S.
A federal judge in New Orleans is considering whether to lift
the moratorium, imposed after the disaster began. Judge Martin
Feldman said he will decide by Wednesday.
During a two-hour hearing Monday, plaintiffs attorney Carl
Rosenblum said the suspension of drilling work could prove more
economically devastating than the spill itself.
"This is an unprecedented industrywide shutdown. Never before
has the government done this," Rosenblum said.
Government lawyers said the Interior Department has demonstrated
industry regulators need more time to study the risks of deepwater
drilling and identify ways to make it safer.
"The safeguards and regulations in place on April 20 did not
create a sufficient margin of safety," said Justice Department
attorney Guillermo Montero.
The Interior Department imposed the drilling moratorium as part
of the Obama administration's effort to show it was responding to
the disaster. No new permits for deepwater drilling in the Gulf are
being approved and drilling at 33 existing exploratory wells has
But the lawsuit Feldman is considering, filed by Hornbeck
Offshore Services of Covington, La., claims the government
arbitrarily imposed the moratorium without any proof that the
operations posed a threat. Hornbeck, which ferries people and
supplies to offshore rigs, says the moratorium could cost Louisiana
thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost wages.
During Monday's hearing, Feldman asked a government lawyer why
the Interior Department decided to suspend deepwater drilling after
the rig explosion when it didn't bar oil tankers from Alaskan
waters after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 or take similar actions
in the wake of other industrial accidents.
"The Deepwater Horizon blowout was a game-changer," Montero
said. "It really illustrates the risks that are inherent in
Meanwhile, Kenneth Feinberg, who has been tapped by the White
House to run a $20 billion fund set up to help people harmed by the
spill, pledged to speed payments.
"We want to get these claims out quicker," he said. "We want
to get these claims out with more transparency."
Feinberg, who ran the claim fund set up for victims of the Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said BP has paid out over $100 million
so far. Various estimates place total claims so far at more than
BP said it has spent $2 billion fighting the spill for the last
two months and compensating victims, with no end in sight. It's
likely to be at least August before crews finish two relief wells
that are the best chance of stopping the flow of oil. Scientists
estimate the blown-out well has gushed anywhere from 68 million to
126 millions gallons of oil into the Gulf.