Shell gets approval to drill three deepwater wells in Gulf of Mexico

It's near impossible to forget that back in April of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon burst into flames, sunk into the sea and spewed oil for months. In early May, President Obama declared that no additional deepwater drilling efforts would commence until measures were in place to prevent this type of disaster. Then, in October of 2010, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that deepwater drilling would resume. Earlier this month, Salazar said that he expects to sign off on a "significant" number of offshore drilling permits. Guess what? Deepwater drilling is officially set to begin again.

On Monday, regulators approved Shell's offshore plan that calls for the drilling of three exploratory wells in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the decision will likely face legal challenges from groups who believe that the government is acting prematurely by not holding off on issuing permits until a post-spill study is complete.

Salazar said that decision "marks another important step toward safer deep-water exploration" and Marvin Odum, president of Shell, called it "a very significant milestone" but critics still point to a worst-case scenario that could be devastating. Shell says its well equipment will include a system that cuts off oil in the event of a blowout, but even with that in place, Shell's own worse-case scenario indicates that a blowout at one of the deepwater sites could result in a spill that lasts for 109 days, with 14.4 million barrels of oil tainting the Gulf. That'll be impossible to forget. Again.

[Source: Chron | Image: mikebaird – C.C. License 2.0]

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