The Obama administration “is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time,” the New York Times reports.
The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.
Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border.
The environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska would be protected and no drilling would be allowed under the plan, officials said. But large tracts in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska — nearly 130 million acres — would be eligible for exploration and drilling after extensive studies.
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, offered this reaction in a press release:
“I commend Secretary Salazar for proposing a plan that makes available for leasing much of the potential offshore oil and gas resources that the Federal government owns. I also commend him for indicating that additional studies will be undertaken before making a final decision on leasing in areas that might be environmentally sensitive.
“Secretary Salazar’s proposed plan is generally consistent with the legislative proposals regarding our offshore national oil and gas resources that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported last summer. I hope that the Senate will address these legislative proposals in the coming weeks."
Bill Nelson (D-FL), per a press release:
“I’ve talked many times to [ Interior Department ] Secretary [ Ken ] Salazar and told him if they drilled too close to Florida’s beaches they’d be risking the state’s economy and the environment. I believe this plan shows they heeded that concern. And it ought to derail the scheme in the Florida Legislature to drill three miles offshore. Now I need to hear from Defense Secretary Robert Gates. And I want him to look me in the eye and assure me that this plan will not compromise national security by interfering with the unfettered space we have for training and testing our most sophisticated military weapons systems. ”
Lamar Alexander (R-TN), per a press release:
“As we learned in the health care debate, it’s important to read the fine print before signing up. While opposed to a high-cost, economy-wide cap-and-trade energy program, Republicans have long advocated a low-cost, clean energy plan based on offshore exploration, nuclear power, electric cars, and energy research and development.”
Mark Warner (D-VA), per his web site:
"This is good news and a positive step forward as we work to expand our nation’s domestic energy production. Moving forward on the mid-Atlantic off-shore proposal will provide an opportunity to determine the scope of our region’s off-shore energy resources, the economic viability of accessing those resources, and the potential impacts on our environmental and national security priorities.
"The next important step is for Congress to approve a formula for sharing revenues between the federal and state government. I am continuing to work with my colleagues to come up with a proposal that is fair and equitable, and which could attract significant new investment and create good jobs in Virginia.
"This is not a ‘silver bullet’ solution to our nation’s chronic energy challenges. But I have long advocated an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach that incorporates increased R&D into bio-fuels and other renewables, development of our nation’s off-shore oil, gas and wind resources, the expanded use of clean coal technology and nuclear energy, and increased conservation measures. This ‘portfolio’ approach will significantly boost our nation’s capacity for domestic energy production while strengthening our national security by reducing our over-reliance on imported oil."
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – an excerpt from a press release:
“Senate Republicans have long supported efforts to find more American energy, and use less; we believe we must do both. While supporting conservation, electric cars, clean coal and nuclear energy, we also pushed for lifting the Congressional ban on offshore exploration, which was removed more than a year ago. Since then, we have been waiting to see whether the administration would follow through and open more areas for the development of American energy.
“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but a small one that leaves enormous amounts of American energy off limits. And the proof of the administration’s announcement will be in the implementation: will the administration actually take concrete steps to finish the studies, approve the necessary permits, and open these areas for production? Will they stand by as their allies act to delay the implementation in the courts?”
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – an excerpt from a press release:
“As to the Obama Administration’s proposal for environmentally sound offshore exploration for American oil and natural gas, this is a good first step. But there is more that must be done to make this proposal meaningful and the game-changer we all want it to become.
“Among the areas we still need to address – encouraging states to allow exploration by sharing a portion of the revenue raised from oil and gas drilling, opening even more areas of the Eastern Gulf to exploration, the inclusion of viable drilling sites in the Atlantic and Pacific, and expanding the list of areas we inventory for possible reservoirs of oil and gas.”
Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, per a press release:
"I appreciate the President’s apparent willingness to consider offshore drilling as part of the Administration’s energy policy," Senator Inhofe said. "Time will tell as to whether Obama is really ready to embrace offshore drilling or simply wanting to look like he is.
"As I have said, we can make great strides toward increasing North American energy independence by developing our own domestic resources. We can do this and support millions of American jobs, produce affordable energy for consumers, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
"It also appears President Obama is caught in a contradiction: the President is, on the one hand, pushing forward with global warming policies to make fossil fuels more expensive, while on the other hand, he’s talking about drilling for more fossil fuels offshore. How does the President square these two policies?"
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), per a press release:
“Drilling off the Virginia coast would endanger many of New Jersey’s beaches and vibrant coastal economies,” stated Lautenberg. “Giving Big Oil more access to our nation’s waters is really a Kill, Baby, Kill policy: it threatens to kill jobs, kill marine life and kill coastal economies that generate billions of dollars. Offshore drilling isn’t the solution to our energy problems, and I will fight this policy and continue to push for 21st century clean energy solutions.”
Ted Kaufman (D-DE), per a press release:
“While I share the President’s commitment to taking our dependence on foreign oil head-on, I do not believe opening Delaware’s coasts to drilling is the way to meet that goal. It is a simple fact that the United States has only a tiny percentage of world oil reserves – 3 percent – while we consume 25 percent. We cannot achieve meaningful energy independence through our own oil reserves. We can and must focus on building an energy economy that relies on clean, renewable domestic sources.
“Here in Delaware, we are pushing forward on the nation’s first offshore wind project. We believe that our oceans offer the promise of clean, renewable energy that will create jobs, cut our greenhouse gas emissions, and move us toward energy independence.
“My concerns with expanding drilling are not just about the environmental effects – the harm to aquatic life and our water quality. I also worry about the damage that oil spills could do to the tourism that drives the Delaware coastal economy.
“I look forward to working with the President and Senators from around the region to find ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil without risking our environment and our economy.”
Jim Webb (D-VA), per a press release:
“Opening up Virginia’s offshore resources to natural gas and oil exploration holds significant promise for boosting needed domestic energy production, while at the same time, bolstering the Commonwealth’s economy,” said Senator Webb. “Support among Virginia’s political leadership for developing the resources 50 miles off of our coast is strong. This policy should be coupled with a fair and equitable formula for profit-sharing between the federal and state government in order to attract well-paying jobs to the Commonwealth and support a range of projects, from clean energy development to transportation infrastructure to coastal restoration.”
John Cornyn (R-TX), per a press release:
“I welcome the President’s decision to follow through on the previous Administration’s plans to expand areas previously off limits to domestic offshore production; however, the devil is in the details. We should not ignore promising areas off the Gulf of Mexico especially with the cost of gas increasing and job creation non-existent. Now is not the time for lip service. Nibbling around the edges will not increase our energy security. For the sake of our security and our economy, now is the time to give the American people access to domestic energy.’”
Ben Cardin (D-MD), per a press release:
“Our nation desperately needs a comprehensive energy policy that will lessen our dependence on foreign oil. I applaud the President for putting forward such a plan that includes renewable sources, nuclear energy, and developing oil and gas resources on existing leases, but I object to expanding off-shore drilling. The oil companies already have over 60 million domestic acres of leased area that could be drilled today, but they sit idle. We need to explore and drill currently held lands before risking permanent damage to some of our nation’s most sensitive environmental areas, including the Chesapeake Bay,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee. “Before drilling begins on any new areas, there must be comprehensive environmental and economic studies completed to assess the dangers to affected states. Spills happen with even the most responsible drilling, but spilled oil does not stop at the state border. The entire region must have a say before starting any activity that puts our fisheries, seafood and tourism industries in jeopardy.”
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), per a press release:
“We must do what we can to help Americans deal with rising energy costs without opening up our Atlantic coastline to drilling. Offshore drilling brings with it great concerns – from the potential of oil spills to the protection of our defense facilities located along the coast – for our national security. The coastal states that are on the front lines need to have to a say when it comes to decisions that have an impact far beyond one state’s coastline. I will continue to do what I can to protect these coastal areas, and the Chesapeake Bay, for future generations,” said Senator Mikulski.
Mary Landrieu (D-LA), per a press release:
“The Obama Administration’s announcement today has set the stage for the largest expansion of the offshore drilling program since its inception in 1953. This is a welcome change in federal policy that will create thousands of jobs and put America on a path to a more secure energy future. This is the absolute right step for the country. Today’s announcement signals that this administration is serious about a jobs and energy security policy. Expanded onshore and offshore drilling for oil and natural gas creates high quality jobs here in America, while making our country more secure and less dependent on oil from unstable and often hostile governments.”
(credit image – houston chronicle)