U.S. offshore oil fire may delay lift of drill ban
* Fire on platform raises more questions about safety
* Environmental groups criticize safety of offshore energy
* Interior Dept. had said hoped to lift drilling ban early
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Sept 2 (Reuters) - The Obama Administration is likely to stay focused on toughening regulatory oversight of the U.S. offshore oil industry and may push back lifting a ban on deepwater drilling after the latest accident in the Gulf of Mexico, analysts said on Thursday.
The fire on a Mariner Energy ME.N oil and gas platform in shallow waters of the U.S. Gulf on Thursday was a major setback for companies hoping for an early end to the government's drilling moratorium and raised more questions about the safety of offshore drilling.
"This explosion will make it less likely that the moratorium on offshore drilling will be lifted," said Rick Muller, senior analyst for Energy Security Analysis Inc in Boston.
The United States is still reeling from the BP (BP.L: Quote) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. [ID:nN02220827]
Interior Department officials declined to comment on whether the Mariner accident would prompt Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to consider expanding the current deepwater drilling moratorium to shallow waters. Continued...