Obama Administration Announces Offshore Drilling Plan
November 10, 2011

Obama Administration Announces Offshore Drilling Plan

As part of a five year proposal unveiled Wednesday, the White House announced plans to open new areas in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska for offshore oil drilling, but will continue to prohibit development on the East and West Coasts, according to John M. Broder of the New York Times.

Broder said that the Obama administration's proposals, which will cover the five-year period from 2012 through 2017, "disappointed environmentalists but fell far short of what the oil industry and its Congressional supporters demanded."

While the plan will now be subject to potential revisions and public hearings over the next several months, it will tentatively expand Gulf of Mexico development into some locations near Florida that had previously been off-limits to oil companies, the Times reported. It will also allow drilling in the Arctic Ocean off the North Slope of Alaska and in the Cook Inlet, the newspaper added.

However, the drilling in the East Coast will be off limits. Prior to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, parts of the Eastern Seaboard were scheduled to be opened up to oil companies, but citing "lessons learned" by the BP disaster, Broder said that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has pulled that proposal off the table.

According to a Department of the Interior press release published on Tuesday, the government said that it will make 75% of "undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources estimated in federal offshore areas available for exploration and development," scheduling 12 potential lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three more near the Alaskan coast during that five-year period.

"Expanding safe and responsible oil and gas production from the OCS is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America´s energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home," Salazar said in a statement. "This five-year program will make available for development more than three-quarters of undiscovered oil and gas resources estimated on the OCS, including frontier areas such as the Arctic, where we must proceed cautiously, safely and based on the best science available."

"This proposal recognizes the need to proceed carefully and in a manner that protects human safety, coastal areas, and the environment," added Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. "This Proposed Program both promotes responsible development and is informed by lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and the reforms that we have implemented to make offshore drilling safer and more environmentally responsible."


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