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Ban on New Offshore Oil Drilling Urged by Europe Energy Chief

The European Union’s energy chief urged a ban on new offshore oil drilling until the causes of BP Plc’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico are known, citing the need for “utmost caution.”

The call by European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger is directed at EU national governments, which are responsible for granting oil-exploration permits. The administration of President Barack Obama is fighting to reinstate a temporary ban on deep-water oil drilling that a judge threw out on June 22.

“Any responsible government would at present practically freeze new permits for drilling with extreme parameters and conditions,” Oettinger said in remarks prepared for delivery to the European Parliament today in Strasbourg, France. “This can mean de facto a moratorium on new drills until the causes of the accident are known.”

BP’s Macondo well has been gushing as much as 60,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico following an April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers. The spill, the largest in U.S. history, has fouled beaches, killed wildlife and shut a swath of fishing grounds.

The accident has prompted the European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s Brussels-based executive arm, to assess whether more regulation of the oil industry is needed. In his comments to the Parliament, Oettinger said he would meet with national regulators on July 14.

“If proven necessary, we will not hesitate to come with legislative initiatives in the coming months,” he said.

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