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Federal judge to determine legality of deepwater drilling ban

Storm clouds advance upon a BP sign in Peckham, south London.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bob Moon: The near future of deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico could be decided in a case that begins today. A federal judge in New Orleans will hear arguments over whether the six-month ban on the drilling is legal. That ban has idled dozens of offshore oil drilling plans in the Gulf, many of which happen to be operated by BP. Marketplace's Stephen Beard joins us live from London now. Good morning.

Stephen Beard: Hello, Bob.

Moon: How critical is this offshore moratorium for BP?

Beard: It's pretty important. BP derives around 10 percent of its revenues from the Gulf. Obviously all the oil companies operating there want this moratorium to come to an end. And it seems many, many people along the Gulf Coast who derive employment and revenue from the oil rigs, servicing the rigs and so on, they also want the moratorium to be scraped. So it's not just BP and the oil companies.

Moon: And what about BP's longer-term future in the Gulf? How's that looking?

Beard: On the face of it, it's looking a bit more secure. BP's been talking to the Obama administration about finance, and is now apparently close to a deal whereby it will use all its oil revenues from the Gulf to guarantee payments into that $20 billion compensation fund. Now that seems to guarantee BP's continued presence in the Gulf. But as oil analyst Nick MacGregor points out, this only secures the company's existing production in the Gulf:

Nick MacGregor: I think the real difficulty comes with access to future drilling rights, and if BP were to be shut out of that area, then I think that shareholders would take a very dim view.

And he says since there is this move in Congress to ban oil companies with poor safety records from getting new drilling licenses, it is still possible BP could be shut out of future exploration.

Moon: Marketplace's Stephen Beard in London, thank you.

Beard: OK, Bob.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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