Small producers also paying high cost for Obama intransigence on drilling

U.S. Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen, Sec...Image via Wikipedia
Houston Chronicle:

When federal officials lifted the ban on deep-water drilling in early October, Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas was ready to roll.

The small production company was finishing up work on a well that tied into its Telemark production hub about 100 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It had filed a permit to drill a sidetrack off an existing well — a relatively low-risk proposal for the world of deep-water drilling. It was even revised and updated to meet all of the new requirements imposed on deep- water permits in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon accident.

"So I kept the crew out there because I felt certain the government meant what it said," ATP Chairman and CEO Paul Bulmahn said - that permit applications that met the new guidelines would be granted.

More than 70 days later, the company is still waiting. At a price of about $330,000 per day, Bulmahn has started to get impatient, leading him to take some actions unusual for the company.

First, ATP hired Washington, D.C., lobbyists for the first time to help push its cause.

"I usually look with great disdain on lobbying efforts," Bulmahn said.

Then he wrote a personal letter to President Barack Obama - copied to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement - pleading with him to "Please issue a permit so we can go back to work."

And on Sunday he ran the letter as an advertisement in the Chronicle.

"I can't afford to keep these workers employed and playing cards," Bulmahn said.

It's a notion shared by many in the industry, which says a de facto moratorium remains despite the Oct. 12 announcement that the Gulf was open again for business. The administration says that's not the case, however, and that the bureau has added staff to work through the backlog of permit applications.

The bureau doesn't comment on specific permit applications that are still pending because the information is considered proprietary to the companies.

In the next few days, Bulmahn said he may have to pull the plug on the project, meaning some 200 workers will be off the clock or headed to work on offshore projects overseas. It's not just an idle threat: On Monday Israeli media reported that ATP was considering taking a stake in several offshore natural gas projects there.

The stalling on the permits is absurd. It reflects a anti energy attitude throughout this administration. This is a situation that should be a no brainer, but it turns out in the Department Of the Interior, there is not enough brain power to figure that out. It is a completely careless attitude toward the costs to the industry and the jobs of the workers. There are some people in Washington who need to lose their job including Ken Salazar who is the most anti energy Secretary in history.
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