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EU considers partial ban on offshore deepwater drilling

Keeping the Oil Out: A crew works Wednesday on a barrier system at the entrance to the Panama City harbor at St. Andrews State Park. It’s one of many being built along the Florida Panhandle to stop oil from entering harbors.

Associated Press

Keeping the Oil Out: A crew works Wednesday on a barrier system at the entrance to the Panama City harbor at St. Andrews State Park. It’s one of many being built along the Florida Panhandle to stop oil from entering harbors.

BRUSSELS — The European Union's top energy official on Wednesday suggested banning any new deepwater oil and gas exploration projects in the North Sea, Black Sea and the Mediterranean while regulators examine safety risks.

The U.S. banned offshore drilling in April in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from a well operated by BP, and is now trying to maintain the six-month ban despite legal challenges.

Norway, Europe's biggest oil producer, has also banned new deepwater drilling in the North Sea. It is not a member of the 27-nation EU. Britain is the most important EU nation with offshore oil rigs, but has so far made no plans to stop drilling.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told reporters after talks on Wednesday with 22 oil companies that "a moratorium on new drillings would be a good idea" while U.S. and EU regulators examine what caused the Gulf of Mexico accident.

Amendment would target safety issues

WASHINGTON — A House committee wants to put BP in a penalty box of sorts.

The Natural Resources Committee approved an amendment Wednesday that would ban companies with significant workplace safety or environmental violations over the preceding seven years from new offshore drilling permits.

The amendment's sponsor, George Miller, D-Calif., said it was needed to limit drilling to responsible companies. Miller's office said BP's safety violations alone would be enough to disqualify that company.

The amendment was passed as part of a larger energy bill that the committee was considering Wednesday.

Relocated turtles released into Atlantic

CAPE CANAVERAL — The first sea turtle hatchlings whose eggs were evacuated from the Gulf Coast oil spill to Florida's Kennedy Space Center have been released into the Atlantic Ocean.

Biologist Jane Provancha says the newborn Kemp's ridley sea turtles did well after their release.

About 700 sea turtle nests — each containing about 100 eggs — are being trucked from oil-hit shores along the gulf to Cape Canaveral, where they're kept at a climate-controlled facility. The turtles are being released into the Atlantic as they hatch.

Groups sue to find out about dispersants

A coalition of environmental groups filed suit Wednesday, seeking information about the chemical dispersants being used on the gushing oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Earthjustice, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in federal court in Washington, D.C. The suit contends the EPA should disclose the dispersants' contents as well as all health and safety information. Since the spill began in April, BP has been using unprecedented amounts of dispersant, both on the surface and under the sea, where it has never been used before.

Meanwhile, in Utah...

SALT LAKE CITY — State regulators have cited Chevron for a pipeline leak that spilled crude oil into a Salt Lake City creek.

The leak last month sent an estimated 33,000 gallons of oil into Red Butte Creek. Much of the oil pooled into a pond at the city's Liberty Park, and regulators say oil traveled downstream into the Jordan River.

The Utah Water Quality Board issued citations to Chevron on Tuesday for unauthorized release of a pollutant, releasing an "offensive" waste and violating water quality standards.

Regulators are waiting on Chevron's response before deciding whether to levy any fines, said Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality. The fines could start at $10,000 a day for as long as the waterways were polluted. Violations can reach $25,000 a day for pollution discharges that are willful or the result of gross negligence, he said.

Baker planned to meet with Chevron officials today.

Chevron spokesman Dan Johnson said Wednesday that the company had no comment on the citations.

73 Percentage of Americans oppose President Barack Obama's ban on deepwater oil drilling in response to BP's spill, even as they hold the company primarily responsible for the incident. Almost three-fourths say a ban is unnecessary, calling the worst oil spill in U.S. history a "freak accident," according to a Bloomberg National Poll. Barely more than a third say they support drilling less than they did a few months ago. The BP rig sank in April.

"This thing's been going on for so long now, it's time to take a gamble. If it's going to blow the bottom of the ocean out, it's just going to blow the bottom out."

Mitch Jurisich, a third-generation oyster farmer from Empire, La., said Wednesday after the government temporarily postponed a test of a new cap on the gushing well.

EU considers partial ban on offshore deepwater drilling 07/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 15, 2010 12:25am]

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