Almost six months after the Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded killing 11 workers at the start of the worst environmental disaster ever in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration's lifting of its six-month moratorium on new deep-water oil and gas drilling permits ... six weeks early!

 

The White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said:

 

"This is a process that starts permitting process again. Somebody can drill only when they satisfy the government that they have a process in place to deal with a worst case scenario."

 

For three months from April to July - the BP oil spill fouled delicate marshlands, holiday beaches and damaged the summertime economies of all five US Gulf States.

 

The ban on new deep-water drilling permits included deep-water sites off the US coastline in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska and Virginia.

 

The Obama administration sold the idea as a window of opportunity to review safety but, fearful of thousands of lost jobs, the State of Louisiana took the government to court and temporarily blocked the moratorium.

 

A new one was swiftly drawn up but on Tuesday the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said:

 

"There will always be risks with deepwater drilling but we have now reached a point where in my view we’ve reduced those risks."

 

Environmentalists disagree accusing the administration of chasing votes in a slumped economy - ahead of the imminent mid-term Congressional elections in November.

 

Greenpeace issued a statement saying:

 

"This is pure politics of the most cynical kind. It is all about the election season, not safety and environmental concerns."

 

More than 30 drilling rigs were affected by the ban of which 18 were exploratory wells.

 

 

The Interior Department says new permits can be swiftly approved and drilling should resume by year's end.