When federal officials lifted the ban on deep-water drilling in early October, Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas was ready to roll.
The small production company was finishing up work on a well that tied into its Telemark production hub about 100 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It had filed a permit to drill a sidetrack off an existing well — a relatively low-risk proposal for the world of deep-water drilling. It was even revised and updated to meet all of the new requirements imposed on deep- water permits in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon accident.
“So I kept the crew out there because I felt certain the government meant what it said,” ATP Chairman and CEO Paul Bulmahn said – that permit applications that met the new guidelines would be granted.
More than 70 days later, the company is still waiting. At a price of about $330,000 per day, Bulmahn has started to get impatient, leading him to take some actions unusual for the company.
First, ATP hired Washington, D.C., lobbyists for the first time to help push its cause.
“I usually look with great disdain on lobbying efforts,” Bulmahn said.
Then he wrote a personal letter to President Barack Obama – copied to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement – pleading with him to “Please issue a permit so we can go back to work.”
And on Sunday he ran the letter as an advertisement in the Chronicle.
“I can’t afford to keep these workers employed and playing cards,” Bulmahn said.