Less than one year after a catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico from a broken BP-operated oil platform, the British petroleum giant is asking federal regulators for permission to resume drilling again, according to several reports.
The news of BP's request to reenter the Gulf comes fresh on the heels of another report that Transocean Ltd. gave its top executives large bonuses for achieving the "best year in safety performance in our company's history", despite the explosion of its oil rig - which BP had leased - that killed 11 people and spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
A commission appointed by President Barack Obama earlier this year said the explosion was caused by a series of time and money-saving decisions by Transocean, BP and oil services company Halliburton Inc. that created an unacceptable amount of risk.
Perhaps because of that finding, BP is only seeking permission to resume drilling on 10 existing wells in exchange for stricter regulatory rules, The New York Times reports.
However, according to the British daily the Financial Times, the deal between BP and U.S. regulators has already been struck, and the drilling could resume as early as July. The deal includes a clause which allows 24-hour access by government overseers, as well as detailed plans in case of an accident or emergency, including what lessons it learned from last year's disaster.
BP is "the biggest license holder in the Gulf and has more than 20 fields there," the Financial Times reports.
Meanwhile, in its report on the executive bonuses, Transocean noted "the tragic loss of life" in the Gulf when the rig operated by BP exploded last April. But it said the company still had an "exemplary" safety record because it met or exceeded certain internal safety targets concerning the frequency and severity of its accidents, according to the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
As for the areas most devastated by the spill, both the tourism and fishing industries have expressed cautious optimism about their prospects for recovery.
"With the (survey) numbers we're getting, we can't discount the fact that there is still some perception of an (oil) issue out there. But the anecdotal data that we're getting is that's getting better as time goes on," said Colette Boehm, special projects director for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism in Alabama, where oil and tar balls stained parts of the 32 miles of coastline last summer.