More than a dozen oil companies will be allowed to bypass new environmental reviews for deepwater projects halted by a temporary drilling ban, the U.S. Interior Department said on Monday.
Companies such as Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell, which were already drilling wells when the department imposed its moratorium, will still have to meet the agency's new offshore drilling regulations before restarting their projects.
"We are taking into account the special circumstances of those companies whose operations were interrupted by the moratorium and ensuring that they are able to resume previously approved activities," said Michael Bromwich, head of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The decision to waive new environmental reviews for drilling activities that were already under way comes as the department faces criticism for not moving fast enough to restart drilling in the Gulf of Mexico since the drilling ban was lifted in October.
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