Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Drilling Banned in Eastern Gulf, Atlantic Coast

The Obama administration announced today that the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted it to scuttle plans to open waters off Florida and along the Atlantic coast to offshore oil and gas drilling for at least seven years.

The change, detailed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a conference call, reverses key components of a sweeping energy plan President Barack Obama announced last March.

"We are adjusting our strategy in areas where there are no active leases," Salazar said. "Our most appropriate course is to focus on areas with existing leases and not expand to new areas."

Hercules Offshore Inc. semi-subermisible oil rigs and jackup shallow-water drilling units stand idle in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Cameron, Louisiana, U.S., on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Bloomberg / Getty Images
Hercules Offshore's drilling equipment stands idle in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Cameron, La., on July 17. The federal government is canceling plans to open waters off Florida and the Atlantic coast to offshore oil and gas drilling for at least seven years in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In a speech on March 31, Obama announced he was ending a decades-old ban on oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic coast, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and northern Alaska as part of a comprehensive energy plan designed to reduce reliance on foreign oil.

The changes, which drew harsh criticism from environmentalists, would have allowed drilling on tracts as close as 50 miles from Virginia's beaches and would end a moratorium on drilling from Delaware to central Florida. A congressional ban on drilling in most of those areas ended in 2008, although a ban on drilling off Florida's gulf coast would have continued until 2022.

"There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision," Obama said in March in his speech at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. "But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy."

Three weeks later, BP's Macondo well blew out, killing 11 men and setting off a spill that spewed 50,000 barrels of oil into the gulf for the next 87 days -- nearly 5 million barrels in all.

Today's announcement drew immediate praise from environmentalists and Florida lawmakers. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, praised Obama in a statement for "listening to the people of Florida."

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., called the BP spill a "wake-up call" to the administration.

But U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the ranking Republican on the House Resources Committee, said in a statement that the administration is "taking the wrong approach in responding to the BP spill. ... The answer isn't to give up and say, 'America can't figure it out, we'll rely on other countries to produce our energy.' The answer is to find out what went wrong and make effective, timely reforms to ensure that U.S. offshore drilling is the safest in the world."

Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, said in a statement, "The administration is sending a message to America's oil and gas industry: take your capital, technology, and jobs somewhere else."

Sponsored Links
Salazar said the administration will proceed with lease sales in the central and western Gulf of Mexico late next year as part of the 2007-2012 Outer Continental Shelf program.

He said that 29 million of 43 million acres under lease in the central and western gulf have not yet been developed and "provide plenty of opportunity."

In the Arctic, lease sales under the 2012-2017 program will be scheduled after public meetings in Alaska and an assessment of the environmental impacts and industry plans for oil-spill response are studied, Salazar said. He noted that Shell's application to drill an exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea is the only application pending.

Salazar said seismic studies will continue along the Atlantic coast, but no lease sales will be scheduled in that region in the next seven years.

No comments:

Post a Comment