The federal government has lifted a ban on deepwater oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, more than a month before it was set to expire. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made the decision on Tuesday. As The Associated Press reports, critics of the ban, including oil companies, had argued that a six-month moratorium would harm their business.
"We have more work to do in our reform agenda, but at this point we believe the strengthened safety measure we have implemented, along with improved spill response and blowout containment capabilities, have reduced risks to a point where operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume," Salazar said, in a statement released on Tuesday. He added that his decision was based on new measures that create "tighter rules" and "stronger oversight."
The federal government moved to put the moratorium in place after the nation's worst oil disaster, as it restructured departments and created new guidelines for the industry. Companies that want to drill will now have to meet those new rules before proceeding.