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Mariner Energy Rig Fire Stokes Fears

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Mariner Energy's (ME) platform fire in the Gulf of Mexico has stirred the nation.

It's easy to see why, of course, as the Gulf region continues to struggle to regain its balance after the BP (BP - Get Report) Deepwater Horizon disaster, smack in the middle of hurricane season. Just on Friday, BP said the spill had cost it $8 billion so far, which somehow sounds low.

As for Mariner Energy, a small Houston-based oil-and-gas explorer suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, here's a round-up of the latest:
  • Speculation is rampant that the Obama administration will extend the moratorium on energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. The moratorium was set to expire on Nov. 30. So far, no word from the White House.
  • The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a federal agency within the Department of the Interior, will start an investigation into the Mariner fire, along with the Coast Guard. (Note the pointed absence of the name "Minerals Management Service," the disgraced and disbanded sub-sub-agency within the Bureau of Ocean Energy that historically flubbed in its oversight of BP.)
  • Ranking House Democrats have summoned Mariner Energy executives to Capitol Hill for hearings, which could take place by next Friday.
  • Speaking of the Coast Guard, the service was forced to backpedal from statements it made Thursday afternoon about having spied, not far from Mariner's platform, a slick measuring a mile long and a hundred feet wide.
  • By Thursday evening, however, the Coast Guard said there was no slick or "sheen." What there was was plenty of confusion: the apparently mistaken sighting seemed to be in direct conflict with information from Mariner Energy, which had been claiming that nothing had leaked from the platform following the fire. To make the matter even more bewildering, Reuters reported Thursday evening that the Coast Guard received its initial intel regarding the mile-long sheen from Mariner Energy.
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