No, seriously, that's the word out of Capitol Hill today. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), the agency formed after BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster last year, issued the first permit for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. It went to a project in Mississippi Canyon Block 519. The agency's press release about that makes no mention of BP, calling it "Noble Energy's application." (UPDATE, 7:20 Eastern: A BOEMRE spokesperson explains why it considers this Noble Energy's deal. In short, the company is the "operator for the lease, got the permit and will drill the well.")
Noble Energy also makes no mention of BP in its press release from yesterday. In announcing a major discovery in Mississippi Canyon Block 519, back in 2009, Noble spelled out the various ownership stakes, including BP's -- the largest single slice, with a 46.5 percent stake alongside Noble Energy's 23.25 percent share.
Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, tells Reuters that the new, first permit looks kind of odd, considering. From Reuters:
"Given how the people of the Gulf view BP, this drilling partnership could be called 'Noble meets ignoble'," said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the Natural resources Committee.
"While the optics of this situation contain their own special irony, the reality is that Noble Energy has met the federal government's necessary metrics for safety and response," Markey said.
BOEMRE says you can expect more permits like this one to be approved in coming weeks and months.
UPDATE, 5:30 Eastern: Marian Wang at Pro Publica on how ready the oil companies are for disaster.