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Gulf rig owner criticizes Obama's drilling halt

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By Michael Kunzelman

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The owner of the drilling rig involved in the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico criticized the U.S. government's six-month ban on deepwater drilling in the area Tuesday.

On the sidelines of an oil conference in London, Transocean Ltd. president Steven Newman said there were things President Barack Obama's administration "could implement today that would allow the industry to go back to work tomorrow without an arbitrary six-month time limit."

Transocean owns the Deepwater Horizon rig, which was run by British oil company BP PLC. An April 20 explosion on the rig killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The criticism came a day after a federal judge in New Orleans began to mull lifting the moratorium, which the Obama administration imposed after the disaster began, and the administrator of a $20 billion fund to compensate oil spill victims pledged to speed payment of claims.

Judge Martin Feldman said he will decide by Wednesday whether to overturn the ban.

During Monday's two-hour hearing, plaintiffs' attorney Carl Rosenblum said the six-month suspension of drilling work could prove more economically devastating than the spill itself.

"This is an unprecedented industrywide shutdown. Never before has the government done this," Rosenblum said.


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