WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Monday it will allow 13 companies to resume deepwater drilling without any additional environmental scrutiny, just months after saying it would require strict reviews for new drilling in the wake of the BP oil spill.
The government said it was not breaking its promise to require environmental reviews because the 13 companies — which include Chevron USA Inc. and Shell Offshore Inc. — had already started drilling the wells without detailed environmental studies.
Drilling was suspended last year when the administration imposed a months-long moratorium following the BP spill. The ban was lifted in October, but drilling has not yet resumed in waters deeper than 500 feet in the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. officials said the 13 companies must comply with new policies and rules before resuming activity at 16 Gulf of Mexico wells. All but three are exploratory wells — the same type BP was drilling when the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon rig occurred. The April 20 explosion killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.