NEW ORLEANS — Now that the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history has effectively been stopped, the White House is considering an early end to its moratorium on deepwater drilling.
But four months after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, regulators have only started to make good on promises to overhaul drilling. Tough measures are stalled in Congress. A $1 billion emergency response network proposed by the industry won't be operational for another year.
And while doomsday scenarios from the BP spill, like oil washing up the East Coast, have not come to pass, there are no guarantees that drilling will be any safer once it does resume.
What's changed is "not enough to make a big difference," said Charles Perrow, a Yale professor who has studied the spill.
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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has halted deepwater drilling until Nov. 30, saying the BP spill demonstrated the industry wasn't prepared for a massive underwater blowout.
Salazar has ordered rigs to re-examine their equipment and safety procedures, and next month plans to order new safeguards for blowout preventers.
Before drillers can return to the deep water, however, Salazar said the industry should be able to show that it's capable of containing future blowouts.
Some energy experts, engineering consultants and Gulf Coast leaders joined Big Oil to ask Salazar to change his mind. Drilling was safe before the BP spill, they said, and Gulf communities that depend on the industry are suffering unfairly.