News bites: Oil prices continue to rise, greens to sue over Gulf 'dead zone,' and more

BP’s chairman called on regulators to allow deepwater oil drilling Monday.

AFP reports: “Last year's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked by an explosion on a BP-leased platform is no reason to stop deep sea drilling, the group's chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said Monday.

" 'If we truly learn from this accident, I see no reason to close off the deep water as an area for future oil exploration and production,’ BP chairman Svanberg told a conference in the southern Swedish city of Malmoe on oil spill risk management.”

Environmental groups are planning to sue the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for contributing to a major "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is an area the size of New Jersey where little marine life survives because algae suck virtually all oxygen from the water. Two years ago, the federal government found that Chicago is the largest single source of the phosphorus and nitrogen that feed those life-killing algae,” The New York Times reports.

“Now, three environmental groups that have long blamed the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for much of the pollution that makes its way down the Chicago, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers have filed formal notice of intent to sue the district for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.”

Drilling proponents are not too pleased with a recent assertion by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that oil and gas production is increasing in the United States despite a lack of permits for drilling in the Gulf.

“Republicans and oil-state Democrats are challenging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's comments this week that oil and gas production in the United States has increased even as permitting for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico remains at a virtual standstill,” Greenwire reports.

The story continues: “Salazar, who appeared in Senate and House hearings this week to defend Interior's fiscal 2012 budget, sought to quiet the criticism with data indicating oil and gas production has risen over the past five years and that oil imports have dropped by 10 percent over the same time frame.”

Greenwire adds later: “But those numbers belie the most recent forecast by the federal Energy Information Administration that oil production in the Gulf is expected to decline by 250,000 barrels per day over each of the next two years due in part to the moratorium placed on deepwater drilling and the subsequent slowdown in the issuance of new permits.”