The Mariner Energy Resources (ME) oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday ripped open the debate again over whether a six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling should be extended and expanded.

Following the explosion on the Vermillion oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, environmental groups renewed their calls for the federal government to maintain and possibly widen the ban, while advocates to remove it were more circumspect. Sensitivity over the deepwater drilling ban runs high, given it was only recently that the worst oil spill in U.S. history was capped after spewing nearly 5 million barrels of crude into the Gulf.

"How many times are we going to gamble with lives, economies and ecosystems? It's time we learn from our mistakes and go beyond oil," said John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA, in an email interview.

Drilling Ban Didn't Affect Rigs Like Vermillion

Some members of Congress, however, have supported lifting the ban, among them Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), but following the explosion Thursday, they appeared to be taking more of a wait-and-see approach.

"We have no comment at this time, because we're waiting for all the facts to come in," says a spokesman for Landrieu.

The Department of Interior first established a temporary ban on deepwater oil drilling on July 12. The current moratorium is set to expire on Nov. 30. The explosion Thursday involved a production rig, not an oil driller, and occurred in much shallower water.




"This was an oil and gas production platform in approximately 340 feet of water, 102 miles offshore Louisiana, operated by Mariner Energy Resources," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Interior. "This platform was authorized to produce oil and gas at this water depth."

Although the spokeswoman declined to comment further, one source noted that the Department of Interior's ban did not apply to the Vermillion platform. "[It's] too soon to comment on what, if any, impact this would have on the moratorium," said the source. The Department of Interior also has responsibility for deciding when to lift the ban.

Judge Again Takes Aim at Moratorium


Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is seeking input from the public about deepwater drilling safety reforms, well containment and oil spill response, in an effort to decide whether modifications in the scope or duration of the ban should be made.

"We think all offshore oil drilling should be banned, not just the deepwater drilling," says Jackie Savitz, senior campaign director for environmental group Oceana, following the Vermillion explosion. "Even oil spills in shallow water are bad. It doesn't have to be in deep water to be a disaster."

Meanwhile, the government's effort to maintain its ban is losing ground in court.

On Wednesday, a federal judge took the government's moratorium down a notch, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, who struck down a similar ban earlier, issued a thumbs down to the government's request to throw out a lawsuit brought by oil companies seeking to challenge the ban. But even prior to the court's ruling on Wednesday, the Obama administration was already signaling it may be willing to entertain lifting the ban earlier than its Nov. 30 expiration date.

This latest explosion, however, could potentially rip this idea to shreds.

DailyFinance reporter Jonathan Berr contributed to this report.






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Mingo

Something really stinks hear. Early in his term Obama talked about no more oil . He stops all oil drilling and put at least 80,000 oil workers out of work. Never to go back if he gets his way. People Obama is killig america with this . We will need to buy more oil from his friend Chavez gets rich selling to us There is NO replacement for oil as yet that anyone can afford. I starting to think there is a dark reaso for all that is going on in the gulf China and India are drilling not to far off our coast into Natural gas We are acting so dumb as the world goes on without us

September 03 2010 at 6:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Trish

Does anyone wonder even if we stop all drilling in the gulf will all the rigs owned by China north of Cuba will do the same? Industry trade papers are talking about wholesale removal of rigs in US waters. In fact if one cares to check, the exodus has already begun. Even if we stop ALL drilling there are so many other rigs outside of our territorial waters that will not. What kind of oversight do you think those rigs will have? We will still be at risk and even more dependant upon foreign sources. No one ever seems to address this part of the issue.

September 03 2010 at 1:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
linmarco

The oil companies operating these rigs want to keep them operating so as to keep their cash flow intact. So a rig explodes. So what? To them it's just a risk you have to take to get the oil. Anyone standing in their way, including the POTUS, gets run over like a bulldozer pushing down a tree. These are some powerful people.

September 03 2010 at 10:16 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Ron Perry

in the first place its not a drilling rig it has no derrick on it it is a production well that caugth fire while doing repairs on it. If you all think oil drilling needs to stop then you all need to stop rideing your cares and start walking and cut trees to heat your home and on and on

September 03 2010 at 10:15 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Russell

These reporters need to learn the suject matter of their reports. "Oil rig"?"Production Platform"!Very big difference!

September 03 2010 at 9:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Russell's comment
jwswingle

EXACTLY as I tried to explain, risks of leaks or catastrophic explosions on production platforms are WAY low compared to exploratory drilling rigs! The accidents on production platforms are like the accidents in factories or when using heavy construction equipment, NOT some natural disaster/human error/lack of oversight, blowing the whole thing up like Deepwater was

September 03 2010 at 9:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Fred Hagans

I believe these explosions are the work of anti off shore drilling persons, such as the environmentalists, who don't want any oil drilling anywhere in this country. Just think about it for a moment, There wern't any accidents for more than 30 years, then just a few days after Obama said he was lifting the ban on off shore drilling, the BP oil rig exploded and then yesterday another. I also find this very that the Obama administration hasn't initiated an investigation into this theory. Perhaps the lifting of the ban and the explosions are all part of the plan to destroy this country economically and force us to continue rely on foreign countries for our energy source. I believe the FBI should initate a thourough investigation into this.

September 03 2010 at 9:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Fred Hagans's comment
electroman98

Fred,Ive worked in refineries,there are accidents everyday that you'll never know about. Obama isnt lifting a finger to stop drilling,and no other lawmaker will either because they are all paid off.

September 03 2010 at 9:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
electroman98

Raises question but will this stop them from drilling oil?NO. You can raise all the questions you want but Big oil is big money,and they make the rules.When the day comes that oil drilling isnt profitable,thats when drilling will stop.By then,they will own rights to the next energy source.

September 03 2010 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to electroman98's comment
jwswingle

Too late-both the oil companies, and power generating/utility companies, are the biggest source of investment in renewable energy, except maybe for Venture Capital firms. Just go to BP's site and see...........

September 03 2010 at 9:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JonesEngineering

As long as man designs, builds and operates rigs or actually anything accidents will happen. Reviews of safety procedures and permitting requirements is normal. Only an idiot would declare a moratorium on drilling, explorations for oil, when we import over 60% of our oil from countries that hate us. It seems every lawyer has a idiot module implanted in their brains inhibiting common sense.

September 03 2010 at 8:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
pj74

WHY ARE WE SO DEPENDANT ON OIL WHEN THERE ARE OTHER SOURCES OF FUEL AVAILABLE THAT ARE MUCH SAFER FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT? OIL IS DESTROYING US.

September 03 2010 at 8:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to pj74's comment
gardeningatnite

When the spring rains come, fertilizer from Midwestern farms drains into the Mississippi river system and down to Louisiana, where the agricultural sewage pours into the Gulf of Mexico. Just as fertilizer speeds the growth of plants on land, the chemicals enhance the rapid development of algae in the water. When the algae die and decompose, the process sucks all the oxygen out of the surrounding waters, leading to a hypoxic event — better known as a "dead zone." The water becomes as barren as the surface of the moon. What sea life that can flee the zone does so; what can't, dies.....Midwest/corn = ethanol! We are destroying our most valuable gulf resource....the fisheries and wildlife!

September 03 2010 at 8:48 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Russell

How much of these other sources are available andwhen and where can I get it?

September 03 2010 at 9:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jwswingle

Funny how two very different events can get conjoined. The Horizon deep water explosion and spill was during an active EXPLORATION phase, when things are most likely to go wrong, and safeguards least likely to protect. The Vermillion explosion was a PRODUCTION rig, with ALL safeguards in place for years, and not one news outlet I've read claims any spill has occurred-because it is a "mature" rig safely extracting oil/gas. What caused the explosions are totally different-the Horizon hit a high pressure pocket and for whatever reasons, safeties failed. The Vermillion is not suddenly going to hit a high pressure pocket SINCE IT IS NOT ACTIVELY DRILLING-this could have been something as simple as a leaking fuel tank on top of the platform, let us stay calm and see where this new investigation leads. DO NOT assume it is similar to the last, they are totally different circumstances.

September 03 2010 at 6:57 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jwswingle's comment
atokageneral

WOW...seems to me that an explosion is an explosion. Doesn't matter why it happened, only matters that it happened. Do you really think that if one of those workers died their loved ones would care that it was a "different" set of circumstances that lead to the blast! I don't.

September 03 2010 at 8:05 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply