Interior official: BP ‘sincere’ about safe offshore drilling

The British oil giant was among the most aggressive bidders at the first lease sale in the central Gulf since the 2010 spill.

BP, in October of 2011, received its first Gulf drilling permit for a new well since the spill.

Some lawmakers including Rep. Ed MarkeyEd Markey'Power problem' grounds southern Florida flights Dem senator criticizes Facebook, Instagram for gun sales Apple, Google enlisted for FCC robocall effort MORE (D-Mass.), who is the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) have argued at various times since the spill that BP should be denied new drilling leases over safety lapses that caused the 2010 disaster (more on that here and here).

But Beaudreau, appearing on the program Platts Energy Week TV, noted the company will be forced to comply with federal drilling safety rules that have been toughened since the accident.

He also credited steps BP has taken voluntarily to “raise their game” on safety, such as outside verification of their well cementing procedures.

The central Gulf is the region where the April 2010 disaster occurred, and at least week’s sale companies including BP bought up more acreage in the Mississippi Canyon area, which was the site of BP’s ill-fated Macondo well.

Asked whether he was confident that BP can drill safely in deep waters, Beaudreau replied, “yeah, I am.”

Last week’s lease sale drew $1.7 billion in high bids, a haul that Interior officials highlighted.

“Today is a good day because it is proof positive that the oil-and-gas industry is confident that they can meet the heightened safety standards,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday after the winning bids were unsealed.

“It shows that the Gulf is back, that there is great robustness in terms of oil-and-gas activity currently under way in the Gulf and interest in additional exploration,” he told reporters on a conference call.

Interior overhauled its drilling oversight after the disaster, splitting the troubled Minerals Management Service into what’s now BOEM and the separate Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Interior officials say the days of cozy ties between regulators and the industry are gone.

“We have a constructive relationship with industry. We are arms-length regulators. It is not a partnership. It is not a cozy relationship. But it is a constructive one,” Beaudreau said.