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EU wants new drilling cap

marciadottin, [email protected]

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 BRUSSELS – The European Union’s (EU) top energy official yesterday suggested banning any new deep-water oil and gas exploration projects in the North Sea, Black Sea and the Mediterranean while regulators examine safety risks.The United States banned offshore drilling in April in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from a well operated by BP PLC – and is now trying to maintain the six-month ban despite legal challenges.Norway, Europe’s biggest oil producer, has also banned new deep-water 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 with 22 oil companies that “a moratorium of new drillings would be a good idea” while US and EU regulators examined what caused the Gulf of Mexico accident.Only European governments can decide a ban but Oettinger said he would call each of them and ask them to impose a temporary ban.A time-out might also be in oil producers’ economic interests, he said, because new rules and more technical standards would help restore trust in their tarnished reputations after the BP spill.“Maybe new drillings are important for the future and the market but they are not urgent in this year,” he said.“The industry must triple check their practices, training programmes and technologies. The companies will need to convince the regulators that they have checked and … improved their safety culture,” he said.Oettinger also wants to tighten the way governments grant drilling permits for companies, demanding proof that they have the financial means to pay the costs of any potential spills. He said he will also lead an overhaul of EU safety rules and technical standards. (AP)