Big Oil Rig Coming To The Cuban Coast

A major oil rig will be drilling between the Florida Keys and Cuba by mid-December.
by | September 19, 2011 AT 8:30 PM

A deep-sea oil rig will likely be drilling between the Florida Keys and Cuba by December, the Miami Herald reports.

The rig, operated by Repsol, a Spanish oil company, will be under Cuban jurisdiction. Respol plans to have one well drilled by the end of the year, members of a recent fact-finding mission told the Herald.

Delegates from the International Association of Drilling Contractors and the Environmental Defense Fund met with Cuban government officials to gauge their ability to safely and responsibly operate offshore oilrigs. Because of the trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba, Repsol would rely on companies from the United Kingdom, Brazil and Norway in the event of a spill, according to the Herald.

Dan Whittle, a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, told the Herald Cuba was taking the lessons of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill very seriously.

"They could have easily distanced themselves from what happened and said theirs is a different situation from BP, and said 'thanks very much, but we don't need your help.' The very opposite happened," Whittle said.

But Whittle and Lee Hunt, chief executive of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, stressed to the Herald that the U.S. trade embargo would hamper the ability of U.S. companies to react to a potential accident. They have urged the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments to relax some rules that would then allow American companies to offer Cuba aid if a spill occurred, the Herald reports.

After all, they said, sensitive natural habitats in the United States, as well as Cuba, could be at risk.