U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has lifted a moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, but companies will have to meet certain safety conditions, officials said Tuesday.
"Operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume" drilling, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a news conference in Washington, D.C.
The six-month moratorium was put in place following the explosion in April that destroyed a BP drilling rig and led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Michael Bromwich, director of the agency that oversees offshore drilling, said it would take "at least a couple of weeks" after the ban is lifted before permits are approved.
The administration has already imposed new rules to make offshore drilling safer.
The Obama administration had been under heavy pressure from the industry, regional officials, political leaders and businesses to lift the moratorium. Critics have argued that it further damaged the local economy.
A federal report said the moratorium likely caused a temporary loss of 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in the Gulf region.
The secretary said he knows that some will say the new rules are too onerous, while others will say the suspension has been lifted too soon.
He said there will always be risks involved with deepwater drilling.