(adds details of drilling permit, comment from U.S.
regulator, paragraphs 3-7)
WASHINGTON, March 25 The U.S. Interior
Department said on Friday it approved a permit for Statoil
(STL.OL) to drill for oil in the deep waters of the Gulf of
It was the sixth such permit issued by the government since
the BP oil spill.
The permit allows Statoil to drill a new well 7,134 feet to
the sea floor in the Alaminos Canyon Block 810, 216 miles off
the Texas coastline.
Statoil had to meet tough new U.S. drilling safety rules
imposed after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The oil industry and some U.S. lawmakers complained the
department took too long to approve drilling permits once the
drilling moratorium imposed in response to the spill was lifted
in October. Environmentalists worry oil companies have not
taken enough safety measures to resume drilling.
"Some say we are now proceeding too quickly; some say we
are still proceeding too slowly. The truth is, we are
proceeding as quickly as our resources allow to approve permit
applications that satisfy our rigorous safety and environmental
standards," said Michael Bromwich, who heads the U.S. agency
that oversees offshore drilling. "We will continue to do so."
In order to meet the new safety rules, Statoil contracted
with Helix Well Containment Group to use its device to stop the
flow of oil in case a major leak occurs at the well.
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Dale Hudson; Editing by