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One year after the Gulf's BP oil disaster

Deepwater drilling safety has been at the top of everyone's mind for the past year as we now know how disastrous drilling accidents can be, especially for vessel workers and marine life.

Almost one year ago, the largest accidental oceanic oil spill in history took place in the Gulf of Mexico, spewing out millions of barrels of oil for three months. Eleven men working on the platform were killed in the accident and 17 others were injured when the Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded on the sea floor.

Recently, there have been reports in the media that the United States government was in talks to allow BP to resume drilling in the Gulf; however, Reuters has reported today that the reports are false.

Apparently, the United States Interior Secretary called the reports a "misconception" and said that no agreement of the sort exists, nor will it ever. He said that BP will be forced to go through the same permitting process as all other companies, and not until then will a decision will be made.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management concurred that an agreement between BP and the government did not exist and that "there are no ongoing negotiations", Reuters reported.

Of late, reports have indicated that the disaster was caused by systemic safety lapses and a string of mistakes made by the oil company and its hired contractors. A federal investigation is still going on, though, for further details. Countless lawsuits are also proceeding in relation to the accident.

Following the accident, there was a temporary ban on drilling in the Gulf. Now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has begun issuing permits, with more than five projects being allowed in the past few weeks.

The permits have been issued as the price of oil increases and pressures rise from members of the industry and members of Congress to get the drilling resumed. However, regulating officials want to ensure that the drilling is safe and that permits are not granted as copiously as they have been in the past.

Drilling vessel employees are covered under the Jones Act and other federal laws that allow maritime workers to sue their employers when they have been injured while at sea due to the negligence on behalf of their employer. Therefore, it is very likely that the families of the 11 deceased workers and the injured workers will collect monetary damages from BP.

Source: Reuters, "U.S. emphatic: no deal to let BP resume drilling," Mica Rosenberg and Roberta Rampton, 4/4/2011.

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