Salazar: Pulling back on Gulf of Mexico oil production would have a ‘huge’ economic impact

“This is an industry that can operate safely. There has been a tragic accident here and we need to learn the lessons from it, and we will not move forward with any kind of activity on offshore oil and gas drilling that isn’t going to have safety first,” he added.

President Obama said last week that new leases would not be issued without increased safeguards, and has tasked Salazar with producing a report within 30 days on precautions and technologies that need to be in place.

Interior’s Minerals Management Service is also conducting new inspections of deepwater drilling rigs and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

In the longer term, Obama administration officials have acknowledged that the spill could influence the scope of plans to allow wider offshore oil-and-gas drilling.

The administration is planning to open new areas off the Atlantic Coast and in Arctic waters.

The White House is also asking Congress to pare back limits on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, a plan that faces new political hurdles in the wake of the BP spill.

BP America Chairman and President Lamar McKay said on the same program that BP is seeking multiple ways that contain the damaged undersea well, which is spewing an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf.

The company will try and mobilize a “containment dome” in the next six to eight days, he said. BP is also trying to activate the so-called blowout preventer that failed to deploy when the rig exploded.

“This is like doing open heart surgery at 5000 feet in the dark with robot-controlled submarines,” McKay said. The company is also making plans to drill a relief well, and Salazar noted this method could take up to 90 days to contain the damaged well.

McKay also defended the company’s efforts to contain and clean the spill, which is threatening to devastate ecologically sensitive coastlines that teem with wildlife. “We are throwing every resource we have got at this,” he said. His comments come after Salazar and other federal officials have pressed the oil giant to beef up its efforts.