U.S. Government Denies BP Drilling Deal

There is 'absolutely no truth to the rumor' that the BP was near to a pact to restart drilling at 10 of its Gulf wells, the government says.

Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar vehemently denied the government had reached a deal to allow BP to restart drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, nearly a year after the disastrous oil spill there.

Speaking by conference call from Mexico City, Salazar denied rumors that the government was cooking up an agreement with the British firm -- which was castigated after its damaged Macondo well disgorged 205 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Salazar said flatly that there was "absolutely no truth to the rumor" that the BP was near to a pact to restart drilling at 10 of its Gulf wells.

"There is absolutely no such agreement, nor would there be such an agreement, it simply is a misconception that somehow has gotten out there."

After a nearly one-year moratorium on drilling and the introduction of tougher safety standards, the U.S. government last month issued the first new deepwater drilling permit.

Salazar said BP would be subject to "the same set of standards as we would anybody else, and BP in its future development will have to go through that same kind of process."

The "rigorous" new standards include "satisfying the requirement to demonstrate the capacity to contain a subsea blowout," the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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