WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Government approved on Wednesday, May 11, a Royal Dutch Shell PLC plan to drill for oil in five locations deep under the Gulf of Mexico.
Over objections from environmental groups, the Shell plan is the second deep-water exploration plan approved in the Gulf since the government lifted a moratorium on deep-water drilling last October following the BP oil spill. At least six other plans for deep-water exploration in the Gulf are pending.
The Shell plan includes five wells in about 7,200 feet of water roughly 72 miles off the Louisiana coast. U.S. regulators assessed the plan and determined it met new safety standards instituted after the Gulf oil spill last year.
The drilling “would not have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment,” according to a press release from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, which oversees offshore drilling.
Michael Bromwich, head of the ocean energy bureau, defended the decision and the new safety standards. “The standards are higher than they used to be, and further support our goal of ensuring that deep-water exploration is done more safely and with greater protections for the environment than ever before,” Mr. Bromwich said in the press release.
The U.S. increased scrutiny of environmental impacts from oil exploration after BP’s well exploded on April 20, 2010, and gushed for 87 days. Shell won approval on March 21 for the first post-spill exploration plan, for drilling in the Gulf 130 miles from the Louisiana shore.