UPDATE 1-US won’t rubber stamp offshore oil permits-official

* Official says Interior won’t become permitting mill

* BP spill changed agency outlook on regulation

(Adds comments from Bromwich speech)

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, Oct 18 (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. offshore drilling
agency will not become a “permitting mill” now that its
deepwater drilling moratorium has been lifted, the agency’s
head said on Monday.

In an op-ed posted on CNN’s website, Michael Bromwich, head
of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,
blasted critics who have complained unnecessary permitting
delays will hamper offshore oil development even though the
drilling ban has ended.

“That judgment is based on the standards of the past when
safety and environmental standards were fewer,” Bromwich said.

Interior ended its temporary ban on exploratory drilling at
depths more than 500 feet (152 meters) last week after imposing
new rules aimed at preventing another disastrous drilling
accident like the BP (BP.L: ) spill that ravaged the Gulf for
months this summer.

The BP accident, which spurred the drilling ban, changed
the agency’s outlook on regulation, Bromwich said.

“Those who expect our agency to be a permitting
mill…misjudge the impact of Deepwater Horizon on the people
responsible for regulating the industry and their collective
commitment to safety and environmental protection,” Bromwich
added.

The agency has said it hopes to begin approving permits by
the end of the year. Bromwich stressed that “political
considerations” are not responsible for a slower permitting
pace for offshore oil and gas projects.

Instead, Bromwich blamed the more stringent drilling
regulations and a lack of agency resources for permitting
delays.

Shallow water drillers, who were not covered by the
drilling ban, complained lengthy waiting times for permits have
amounted to a de facto ban on all oil drilling.

Additional Interior employees have been assigned to the
Gulf of Mexico office to speed up the permitting process, but
Bromwich said his agency will not “rubber stamp” permits.

Separately, in a speech delivered on Monday at the
International Regulators Forum conference in Vancouver, Canada,
Bromwich said he hopes to hire as many as 200 new employees to
help bolster the agency’s oversight.

The agency has asked Congress to add $100 million to the
Interior department’s 2011 budget to support the additional
staffing and safety reforms.

Bromwich also said the international regulatory community
should try to share information about the various approaches
countries take to regulate offshore drilling.

“It is critical as we move forward toward safer and more
environmentally responsible drilling, that we do it together,”
Bromwich said.

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

UPDATE 1-US won’t rubber stamp offshore oil permits-official